NM lawmakers join lawsuit against US Air Force

Albuquerque News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – State senators Mimi Stewart and Antoinette Lopez are among the lawmakers joining the fight against the U.S. Air Force and how it’s handled millions of gallons of leaked jet fuel from Kirtland Air Force Base.

In 1999, it was discovered that five to 24 million gallons of jet fuel leaked from the base. In a complaint filed Monday, plaintiffs said the Air Force is not doing enough to clean it all up.

“There’s further characterization that needs to be done and the Air Force has not begun the process of proposing a final remedy and beginning the actual clean up,” Charles de Saillan, co-counsel at NM Environmental Law Center, said.

The complaint wants the Air Force to find out just how much contamination there is and where it has spread to over the years. Specifically, the plaintiffs, which include a couple of organizations, some lawmakers and three Albuquerque residents, want to know if contamination spread to some Ridgecrest communities near San Pedro and Central Avenue.

The document claims the contamination can pose serious health risks like contaminated drinking water. It asks for a deadline for the Air Force to clean up the mess.

“But there’s still a lot of work out there that needs to be done, and it’s going to take decades,” de Saillan said. “We need to have an enforceable document, an enforceable schedule, under which this clean up can proceed.”

The plaintiffs are also asking for at least $10,000 in litigation costs but are not seeking any money in damages or penalties.

KRQE News 13 reached out to the Department of Justice for comment on this lawsuit but did not hear back.

Here is what some plaintiffs had to say about the lawsuit via press release:

“We are taking this action because the federal government has failed to develop and implement adequate solutions to this problem,” said State Senator Mimi Stewart. “The response to this spill has moved far too slowly for far too long. Environmental clean-ups at other sites in NM are subject to rigorous, enforceable requirements. Let’s use those requirements for the Kirtland plume, instead of taking another 20 years to study the issue.”

“Children have been born, grown-up, and become adults while the Air Force has been dragging its feet and interminably delaying cleanup. We owe it to the next generation of children to make sure the Air Force delays no longer,” said Kenneth J. Martinez, chair of the board of directors for New Mexico Voices for Children.

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