ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Patience is growing thin on finding an effective way to cleanup millions of gallons of fuel that have seeped into the ground at Kirtland Air Force base.
Kirtland has a $50 million contract with an engineering firm to work on the fuel spill problem, discovered in 1999 and estimated to involve 8 to 24 million gallons of fuel.
A brand new fuel extraction system unveiled in January was supposed to mark a milestone in cleanup efforts - and was touted as being many times more effective as previous systems.
But the new system is only burning half as many contaminants as expected and has been shut down multiple times because of mechanical issues.
"There's been $50 million appropriated, committed to this - and deadlines go by and deadlines are not met," said Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins.
"I think everyone recognizes this is complicated. This is a very huge engineering challenge," she said. "We respect that, but I think it's again, promises made, not seeing any activity - that's where the frustration lies."
Kirtland officials sent News 13 a statement, saying some of the setbacks were because of Albuquerque's environment.
"Fine silica dust, a result of the desert environment, was entering the system and reducing its efficiency," said Base Civil Engineer Brent Wilson. "The system has also shut down unexpectedly due to heavy wind and rain at Kirtland AFB."
Wilson says they've addressed both of those issues.
The New Mexico Environment Department wants to know why the technology itself isn't working as expected.
Kirtland officials have asked for repeated extensions to get those answers to the state - which have been granted.
The NMED will be addressing the Water Utility Board on Wednesday.
They're expected to announce that they'll be asking for more aggressive measures from Kirtland.
A study released in July revealed that at this point, fuel hasn't reached water wells.
Santa Fe police are working on a new way to put a stop to busy burglars. Instead of throwing them in jail they want to put them rehab.
A winter storm warning has been issued for Albuquerque and surrounding areas through 11 p.m. Thursday.
Tempers flared Wednesday night at the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education meeting as the firestorm over teacher evaluations and student testing continues.
An Albuquerque man says an emergency vet clinic turned away his dying dog because he didn't have enough cash in his pocket to pay to save him. The dog later died.
Closing arguments wrapped up Wednesday in the final sentencing phase of John McCluskey's federal murder trial. The same jury that convicted him of killing an Oklahoma couple, must now decide whether McCluskey should face the death penalty.
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* N.E. Heights Winter Storm
*Weather in the West
* Sheriff Houston
* Toys for Tots
* Winter Weather Coverage
* Board of Education Meeting
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