Traces of a cancer-causing pollutant that has been discharged from military bases for years was detected in Clovis’ drinking water after it was treated at a local plant, state regulators said Monday.
EPCOR, the company in charge of Clovis’ public drinking water, found PFAS — a known carcinogen — in 10 of its 82 wells at the “entry point” where the water would be piped to households, according to the state Environment Department.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has no drinking water limit for PFAS. It has a established a lifetime health advisory level for two chemicals in the PFAS group — PFOA and PFOS — at 70 parts per trillion, which means there may be adverse effects if PFAS is ingested above this threshold for many years.
PFAS was below that lifetime threshold in Clovis’ water, but any amount is not good for public health, said Maddy Hayden, state Environment Department spokeswoman.
“These are emerging contaminants, and the science is still coming in on them,” Hayden said.
Some states have established their own limits on PFAS in drinking water, Hayden said, adding New Mexico is open to the idea but it would be a “resource intensive process.”
The discovery of PFAS in Clovis’ treated water comes a month after the state Environment Department fined the U.S. Air Force almost $1.7 million for failing to monitor the contaminants discharged at Cannon Air Force Base near Clovis and for letting its wastewater permit expire.
The state Attorney General filed a lawsuit against the Air Force last year after groundwater samples indicated chemical levels were hundreds of times higher than the federal health advisory limit. PFAS pollution near Clovis has contaminated at least one dairy farm.
The Air Force has said it does not comment on lawsuits in which it is involved.
For years, the Air Force routinely used a potent type of firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals at bases across the country. The Defense Department has refused to map the PFAS migrating in the groundwater under the base — a critical step in the cleanup process, the Environment Department said.
The agency is seeking $1.2 million from the Legislature to map the contamination and develop cleanup strategies.
In addition, Sens. Pat Woods and Stuart Ingle introduced Senate Bill 275, which would allocate $700,000 to the agency to conduct water well testing in communities affected by the military’s PFAS contamination in Curry and Roosevelt Counties.
“We are working diligently across state agencies and with local officials to ensure public health and drinking water resources are protected,” Environment Secretary James Kenney said in a statement. “This is our number one priority.”