Haaland Presses DoD Official On Progress of Contamination Cleanup at Military Bases in New Mexico

September 20, 2020
Press Release

Washington D.C. – This week, Congresswoman Deb Haaland (NM-01) continued her work to remove PFAS chemicals from all New Mexican military installations. During a House Armed Services Committee, Haaland pressed Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Environment Maureen Sullivan about the current steps to clean up contamination and the urgency to clean up those sites.

During the hearing, Haaland stated, “New Mexicans deserve clean water to raise their families, grow their businesses, and support agriculture, but harmful chemicals have taken a toll on our communities. PFAS presents a clear and present danger to our children, to our farmers, and environment as whole. Yet, in response to the requirement in last year’s NDAA for the Department of Defense to provide its plan to clean up PFAS, all that was produced was an anemic seven-page document explaining the superfund cleanup process. That report doesn’t help my constituents, it doesn’t help he heard working farmers in my state worried about their livestock being contaminated or struggling NM families or children growing up with a host of health problems that we don’t even fully understand yet.”\

In response to Haaland’s concerns, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Environment Maureen Sullivan outlined the priority to cleanup drinking water immediately. Sullivan also mentioned the gaps in efficient methods to cleanup groundwater and soil at sites in New Mexico.

Communities in eastern New Mexico surrounding the base have faced tremendous economic hardship due to contamination from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) chemicals in the groundwater from military activities. Some of these properties directly border the base and are logical candidates for the Air Force to purchase, thus providing compensation for owners of now contaminated agricultural properties and enhancing Cannon Air Force Base’s future security, training, and growth opportunities. The concentrations of PFAS detected in the groundwater below Cannon Air Force Base exceeded 26,000 parts per trillion (ppt) which is 371 times greater than the U.S. EPA drinking water health advisory level of 70 ppt.

Earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the PFAS Action Act of 2019, a bill Haaland co-sponsored this act that would regulate PFAS chemicals, clean up contamination, and protect public health. Within five years, the EPA would have to determine whether the remaining PFAS should be designated as hazardous substances, individually or in groups. Within two years of the enactment of this bill, the EPA would be required to publish human health water quality criteria for certain PFAS. 

Haaland also secured important cleanup and environmental provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2019, and continues to advocate for PFAS cleanup and accountability in the 2020 NDAA negotiations.