Air Force spends $8 million in year after Reese water contamination announcement

Air Force spends $8 million cleaning water around Reese Center

LUBBOCK COUNTY, TX (KCBD) - January 19 will mark one year since the United States Air Force announced it found water wells on and near the former Reese Air Force Base contaminated with polyfluoruoakyl substances exceeding government regulations. In that time, the Air Force says it has spent at least $8 million in its response.

“We’re in this for the long haul,” Air Force Program Manager Paul Carroll said. “We think, since the contamination has been there probably for several years, it typically will take years to clean up a plume that’s in the groundwater. We have experience with the cleaning solvents that we started cleaning up in the 90s. Those plumes took about 20 years to clean up total. We think it’s going to be a long process once it gets to that point.”

The substances came from firefighting foam, Aqueous Film Forming Foam, used on the base going back to 1970. Since November 2017, 469 drinking water wells have been sampled to reveal 200 private and three public wells at or exceeding EPA and TCEQ levels.

The Air Force says bottled water is being provided to 200 homes, with discontinuation of those services to 100 other homes due to the success of treatment systems added to wells.

The Air Force has installed 171 treatment systems on affected wells, serving about 300 homes. The systems use granular activated carbon and resin to remove any contaminants in the water.

“The thing we are concentrating on now is making sure people have safe drinking water, so that’s why we are providing bottled water and putting treatment systems on their wells,” Carroll said. “The Air Force is here as long as it takes to take care of this problem. We understand that people have concerns about their health and drinking water. We have demonstrated that we will take care of them and install the treatment systems. We maintain and sample these treatment systems to ensure that they continue to operate properly and people continue to be provided with safe water in the long term.”

Carroll tells KCBD that residences in Lubbock city limits also have the option to be connected to water services provided by the City of Lubbock at the expense of the Air Force. At least one affected business is making that change.

While Air Force officials are confident in knowing where the contaminated area is, Carroll encourages folks who have yet to have their wells tested in the area around Reese Center to allow for sampling. Contact Paul Carroll at 806-885-5010 or at paul.carroll.1@us.af.mil.

While Reese Air Force Base is no longer active, just a few months ago the Air Force announced a similar issue for Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, New Mexico. Officials say this also stems from the use of the foam from years ago and a new, environmentally friendly foam is used on bases around the world.

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