Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

Pilot study raises water contamination concerns

A treatment plan for contaminated water clean-up is finally in the works in response to serious water contamination discovered five years ago in Curry County. While the water clean-up sounds like a good thing, County Commissioner Seth Martin raises serious concerns when it comes to the method of choice.

In 2021, the United States Air Force approved a $16.6 million contract for a pilot study that would install a small-scale water treatment system at the southeast corner of Cannon Air Force Base. The purpose: cleaning water contaminated with polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the Curry County aquifer.

Last week contractors broke ground on construction for the pilot study but the process seems to be one that could create more problems than it solves. Curry County Commissioner Seth Martin explains, “the issue is that they want to pump the water up, filter it and re-inject it into our aquifer. To me, that is risky, because you have that extra element of another contamination anytime you bring the water to the surface. (Eastern New Mexico News, 7.29.23)

According to Christipher Gierke, biological scientist with the U.S. Air Force and project manager for the pilot study at Cannon AFB in Clovis, the water planned for reinjection has been tested and studied to determine the best filtration system to remove PFAS without impacting the receiving aquifer water quality.

The entire study is projected to take 12 months to complete.

Commissioner Seth Martin is also a member of the Clovis Water Policy Advisory Board. In a recent meeting, he brought up the issue of reinjecting greywater into the aquifer. Greywater is water that has already been used “domestically, commercially, and industrially. This term also applies to leftover, untreated water generated from bathtubs and bathroom sinks in domestic households and is generally acceptable for irrigation purposes” (Eastern New Mexico News, 7.29.23)

Martin compares the possible contamination of Curry County water to the recent issues surrounding contaminated water in Flint, Michigan: he explains that in Flint “the intent was good, but the outcome was they ruined the water in that community. And I’m not saying that’s what could happen here. But anytime that variable is there, you have a chance of contaminating the aquifer. And that’s our only source of clean water for this area.” For Martin, this is a scenario worth considering.

Gierke, however, reassures the residents of Curry County that project participants are doing everything possible to make sure the water study and subsequent clean-up plan will not negatively impact the aquifer.

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