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Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham

Representing the 1st District of New Mexico

Reps. Lujan Grisham and Luján Demand Air Force Secretary Address Cannon Air Force Base Water Contamination

Oct 22, 2018
Press Release

Reps. Lujan Grisham and Luján Demand Air Force Secretary Address Cannon Air Force Base Water Contamination

WASHINGTON, DC – Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01) and Ben Ray Luján (NM-03) sent a letter to Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Air Force, Heather Wilson, after New Mexico’s Environment Department (NMED) issued a warning that water from several wells on and off the Cannon Air Force Base (AFB) have been contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These chemicals are found in foam used for firefighting and are associated with an increased risk of cancer.

The Department of Defense announced in April of 2018 that 126 bases had well contamination from the chemical foam. In August of 2018, Cannon AFB officials reported that initial tests showed there was no contamination of on base drinking water. Additional testing of private wells off base by the Air Force revealed that several wells were unsafe to drink.

The Members wrote: “We have serious concerns with the contamination found in and around Cannon Air Force Base (AFB) and the Air Force’s lack of leadership and immediate response to this situation…[and] disappointed in the Air Force’s communication with the affected public. The notification letters provided to the owners of affected wells did not include specific health risk information.

“In order to fully rectify this situation, it is essential for the Air Force to collaborate with New Mexico state agencies including NMED, New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA), and the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH). The Air Force has an obligation to be responsive, timely, and transparent with all New Mexico state agencies,” the Members continued.

EPA reports show serious health implications of PFOA and PFOS exposure including, high cholesterol, increased liver enzymes, decreased vaccination response, thyroid disorders, pregnancy-induced hypertension and preeclampsia, cancers, and reproductive and developmental complications.

The New Mexico Members asked the Air Force to provide a written response to NMED’s September 26th letter requesting corrective actions; to release the detailed findings from their water well tests around Cannon AFB to NMED; to expedite the finalization of the Holloman AFB site inspection; and to provide NMED the results of all PFOA and PFOS testing of Kirtland AFB including the September 2017 site inspection report.

Please find the full letter here or below.

 

TEXT OF LETTER

October 18, 2018

 

The Honorable Heather Wilson

Secretary of the Air Force

U.S. Department of the Air Force

1160 Air Force Pentagon

Washington, DC 20330-1160

 

Dear Secretary Wilson,

We have serious concerns with the contamination found in and around Cannon Air Force Base (AFB) and the Air Force’s lack of leadership and immediate response to this situation. It is imperative that much more be done. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, specifically PFOA and PFOS, can cause significant health implications, including high cholesterol, increased liver enzymes, decreased vaccination response, thyroid disorders, pregnancy-induced hypertension and preeclampsia, cancers, and reproductive and developmental complications.

We are disappointed in the Air Force’s communication with the affected public. The notification letters provided to the owners of affected wells did not include specific health risk information. Instead the letter directed well owners to the EPA’s website, not even providing a direct link to an appropriate page. We learned through previous inquiries that the Air Force will partner with the New Mexico Environmental Department (NMED) to host a town hall meeting to address community concerns regarding potential human health implications. We urge the Air Force to lead in organizing these efforts and do everything in its power to ensure residents clearly understand potential health risks.

In order to fully rectify this situation, it is essential for the Air Force to collaborate with New Mexico state agencies including NMED, New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA), and the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH). The Air Force has an obligation to be responsive, timely, and transparent with all New Mexico state agencies. We urge the Air Force to respond without delay to NMED’s September 26, 2018 letter requesting additional corrective actions. Those actions included expanding testing to all wells within four miles of the southeast corner of Cannon AFB, future soil and water testing to include perfluorobutanoate (PFBA), resampling all on base wells in the timeframes provided, and continuing to provide alternative drinking water to all individuals with affected water supplies.

Please provide written responses to the following questions and requests:

 

  1. What is the Air Force doing to ensure residents clearly understand potential health risks?
  2. Please respond without delay to NMED’s September 26, 2018 letter.
  3. Please provide to NMED without delay all test findings of the 19 off base private wells tested between August 28 – 30, 2018 and the 5 additional private wells tested September 24, 2018.
  4. Please expedite the finalization of the Holloman AFB site inspection.
  5. Please provide to NMED the results of all PFOA and PFOS testing of Kirtland AFB including the September 2017 site inspection report.

We appreciate your careful attention to this request, and please do not hesitate to call on our offices if we can be of assistance on this matter. We look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,  

Michelle Lujan Grisham

Member of Congress 

 

Ben Ray Luján 

Member of Congress 

 

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