Clovis dairy owner welcomes court actions by New Mexico against Air Force over water contaminates

Updated: Jul. 25, 2019 at 4:47 PM CDT
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CLOVIS, New Mexico (KCBD) - Highland Dairy owner Art Schaap says the support by the State of New Mexico has been “unbelievable” as his business, home and others remain affected by water contamination caused by fire fighting foam used on Air Force bases.

The New Mexico Attorney General and Environment Department filed a preliminary injunction in federal court on July 24 in hopes the court will require the Air Force to take further action to remedy issues caused by the PFAS substance contamination around Cannon and Holloman Air Force Base.

“Currently we are still dumping the milk,” Schaap said. “We currently cannot sell any cattle. Our home, we have installed our own filters and we’re buying our own bottled water. The Air Force has not supplied filters and they quit supplying me bottled water. The dairy has no filter. It’s hard for me to fix a problem that, they have not supplied me any help at all, no money.”

When KCBD spoke to Schaap in February, he was considering euthanizing the thousands of animals which were experiencing problems with production and were unable to be sold. He tells KCBD the cattle are still on the premises as he works with the USDA.

“Currently, nobody is willing to buy the cattle, yet,” Schaap said. “I have not been released from the Food Safety Inspection Service. I’m just sitting in limbo right now.”

Through the injunction, New Mexico wants the Air Force to conduct regular water sampling to better understand the ground water plumes. The state also wants alternate water sources and treatment options to be provided to the affected residents and property owners.

Schaap says he has done his own testing and has given the information to the New Mexico Environment Department.

“Someone needs to be doing testing besides me,” Schaap said. “They’ve done some but it’s just been preliminary. But, they need to be more in-depth and start cleaning it and become accountable.”

The Air Force provided the following statement to KCBD on Thursday:

“While we cannot comment on ongoing litigation, we can tell you that the Air Force is taking an aggressive approach and comprehensive response to PFOS and PFOA contamination of drinking water – at Cannon AFB and across the U.S. – where we have identified human drinking water contaminated with PFOS/PFOA above the Environmental Protection Agency’s lifetime health advisory. When it was determined past Air Force firefighting activities potentially contributed to the PFOS/PFOA contamination at Cannon, we responded immediately by providing an alternate water source and then began working with the community and regulators on identifying and implementing a better long-term solution to prevent exposure. In September 2018, the Air Force identified three locations where PFOS/PFOA concentrations in drinking water exceeded the EPA LHA and immediately began providing alternate drinking water. Since then, we have been working with impacted residents to design and implement point-of-use filtration systems.”

Schaap has been part of lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., where he says he has been met with great support by lawmakers. He hopes the EPA will enact stricter limits on the PFAS substances, which he believes will force entities to clean up any pollutants.

“The biggest issue we have with the Air Force is they aren’t willing to recognize it as a pollution yet because the EPA has not set a standard,” Schaap said. “So, they are hiding behind the law.”

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 contains language helping affected agriculture producers by PFAS contamination. Click here to see that bill, which has been passed by the House and is under consideration by the Senate.

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