State files lawsuit against Cannon, Holloman over water contamination

New Mexico News

The state is now suing the Air Force over decades of water pollution at Cannon and Holloman. 

Attorney General Hector Balderas claims it’s endangering the health of countless New Mexicans and that the Air Force has ignored the problem for years.

Balderas calls the Air Force’s cleanup plan ‘unacceptable,’ and he’s worried the entire region is at risk.

“It’s high time that they not only clean it up but do a full assessment of the east side of New Mexico. I am very worried that not only is the water contaminated, which presents danger to families but potentially could have economic harm to the state of New Mexico,” said Balderas.

The Environment Department discovered public and private water supplies within a four-mile radius of the bases are polluted from toxic foam the Air Force used to fight fires and clean up fuel spills.

He said the bases have taken too long to clean it up and hopes this moves them to take action.

“I think it’s a shame we have to file lawsuits to make people do the right thing,” said Vance Dewbre. “I haven’t really seen them offer anything but bottled water to the families that have positive wells.”

Dewbre lives just two miles away from Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis.

Health is a big concern here, as the contaminant is linked to cancer and other diseases.

“You don’t drink the water?” KRQE News 13 asked. “No, no, no. I’m nervous. I’m nervous about it,” replied Dewbre.

Dewbre, like many of his neighbors, found out about the pollution just last October.

He’s been hauling in his drinking water for months, too scared to drink the water from his well, even though it tested negative.

“We are so close to this thing that I believe that it’s just a matter of time before our wells are contaminated also,” said Dewbre.

“I think it’s absurd that the military can put up a military base anywhere in the world in weeks, and yet not clean up the eastern part of the state,” said Balderas.

The state wants a federal judge to order the Air Force to clean up the contamination at the two bases immediately and to pay for the cleanup.

“This is something that we’re going to be working on and living with for quite some time and I think it’s time for them to step up,” said Dewbre. “I’ve lived here for 32 years, my wife and I have, and everything we have invested is in this place and I couldn’t sell this place even if I wanted to right now.”

KRQE News 13 reached out to Cannon and Holloman for comment, but they said they don’t comment on pending litigation.

Balderas also said he’s looking at suing over the pollution from Kirtland Air Force Base. The Air Force sent millions of gallons of jet fuel spewing into Albuquerque’s water supply for decades and has been slow to clean it up.

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