Home > drinking water, environmental justice, health > The Environmental Disaster You’ve Never Heard Of: The Kirtland Air Force Base Jet Fuel Spill

The Environmental Disaster You’ve Never Heard Of: The Kirtland Air Force Base Jet Fuel Spill

La Jicarita

By DAVID CORREIA

The fighter jets and military planes that blast into the skies each day above Albuquerque’s Kirtland Air Force Base (KAFB) consume millions of gallons of jet fuel each year. In order to serve this fleet, the Air Force stores enormous amounts of fuel and distributes it throughout the base via a network of tanks, pipes and pumps. In the early 1950s, the base replaced leaking tanks and aging pipelines with a new fuels facility it promised would modernize and make more safe the handling and distribution of jet fuel. The facility received its first trainload of jet fuel and aviation gas in 1953. Almost immediately, and for the next 45 years, it leaked jet fuel into the surrounding soil.

The “leak” continued, undetected, until 1992 when workers observed a huge surface plume in the soil surrounding the fuel facility. The Air Force largely ignored requests by the…

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