The US Air Force Has Spilled 24 Million Gallons of Jet Fuel which is Making Its Way Toward Albuquerque’s Largest and Best Water Wells
It has been called the largest threat to a city’s drinking water supply in history. As much as 24 million gallons of jet fuel — or twice the size of the Exxon Valdez oil spill — is seeping into an underground aquifer and steadily toward drought-stricken Albuquerque’s largest and most pristine water wells.
Though the US military has a poor record for environmental protection, the Albuquerque fuel-spill case reveals new levels arrogance and disregard for citizens’ health and well-being. The spill was first discovered in 1999 when the Air Force noticed a pool of fuel coming up out of the ground at its old aircraft fuel storage center, which dates back to the 1950s. Air Force officials say the fuel was leaking from an underground pipe for at least 40 years as tests on elements in the plume — which contains the cancer-causing Benzene and other harmful toxins — show it dates back to at least the 1970s.
Initially, the Air Force estimated the spill to be about 100,000 gallons. But as more than 130 monitoring wells have been dug around the site, estimates on the size and severity of the spill have continued to grow.
In 2007, fuel was found 500 feet down in the aquifer that provides Albuquerque half of its drinking water. In the spring of 2012, the state geologist who initially estimated the spill at 8 million gallons said he now thinks it could be as much as 24 million gallons. And a new report from the Air Force indicates rising groundwater levels have further exacerbated the problem, swamping some of the spill beneath the water table.
With the outcome in doubt, the fate of a city seems to hinge on the Air Force’s questionable ability to remedy the problem. At this late date, there may not be a solution. The Air Force has spent heavily on expert advice from consultants, but the amount of spilled fuel actually recovered to this point is not impressive.