Cannon Air Force Base Groundwater Contamination
CLOVIS, N.M. – The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH), and the New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) have been informed by Cannon Air Force Base that Per- and Poly-Fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), chemicals associated with fire-fighting foams - used by Cannon Air Force Base personnel - have been detected in groundwater on and off base. PFAS are emerging chemicals that may be associated with an increased risk of cancer and other health ailments. They are also known to be environmentally persistent, mobile in groundwater, and bioaccumulate in the food web. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set a lifetime drinking water Human Health Advisory for two PFAS chemicals at 70 nanograms per liter (ng/L), or parts per trillion.
The United States Air Force (USAF) has advised that PFAS have been detected in a small number of the 19 off-base wells tested thus far. Some of these wells supply drinking water to local dairies. The Air Force has reported detections in off base wells with concentrations ranging from 25 to 1,600 ng/L.
The Air Force has informed affected residents of the test results and is making bottled water available for drinking and cooking for wells that exceed the 70 ng/L Health Advisory.
PFAS have been detected in on-base monitoring wells at concentrations exceeding 26,000 ng/L.
NMED, NMDOH and NMDA are working collaboratively to ensure that the Air Force addresses this issue. Because this is an emerging issue across the nation with minimal available scientific data, the NMDA has requested that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) immediately determine if any impacts on health exist, and if so, that the FDA establishes a regulatory threshold for PFAS in dairy products. NMDA requested that a decision be expedited.
NMED is overseeing the Air Force’s investigation of the PFAS contamination pursuant to the New Mexico Ground and Surface Water Protection Regulations, 20.6.2 NMAC. NMED is requiring further, extensive sampling of the affected area by the USAF. In a letter dated September 26, 2018, NMED required the Air Force to submit a comprehensive proposal to further delineate the groundwater plume; sample all water supply wells within a four-mile radius of the southeastern corner of the Air Force base; supply drinking water to affected well owners; and to resample the drinking water system on the Base.
Until further testing confirms an “all clear”, the use of bottled water for those residents and businesses with private domestic wells within a 4-mile radius of the Cannon AFB property boundary is recommended. Residents are encouraged to call the NMDOH Epidemiology and Response Division’s on-call line at (505) 827-0006 for consultation about the results of their well water test, or for information about how to get their well water tested.
To learn more about PFAS and potential effects on people’s health, download the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fact sheet at: https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/docs/pfas_fact_sheet.pdf .