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New Mexico wants feds to pay for PFAS cleanup at Holloman Air Force Base – Carlsbad Current-Argus

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New Mexico wants feds to pay for PFAS cleanup at Holloman Air Force Base – Carlsbad Current-Argus


Amended complaint targets water pollution at bases throughout state

Adrian Hedden

Carlsbad Current-Argus

New Mexico officials want the federal government to pay millions of dollars for cleaning up pollution from “forever chemicals” secreted by Air Forces bases throughout the state, now including Holloman Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Range.

The New Mexico Attorney General amended its complaint to add Holloman and White Sands as contaminated areas, along with Kirtland Air Force near Albuquerque. Previously Cannon Air Force Base was the only contamination site included in the suit.

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The amendments also added the Department of Defense and Air Force as defendants, along with companies 3M and DuPont which produced per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), the chemicals at the center of the suit.

The State also called for a court to award costs, damages and other financial relief to New Mexico from the federal government, based on new regulations enacted by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA recently added several PFAS to its list of hazardous substances that could warrant federal cleanup under the “superfund” statute.

The state’s complaint detailed about $16.7 million in incurred and estimated future expenses it said were tied to the Department of Defense’s PFAS contamination at all three Air Force bases, Fort Wingate near Gallup and in communities in Otero and Curry counties.

The Air Force did not respond to a request for comment.

New Mexico holding feds ‘accountable’ for PFAS

PFAS were first produced in the 1940s and were widely used in the decades since. They are believed contained in firefighting foam used at the bases but were also tied to myriad products and processes including cookware and oil and gas drilling.

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Long-term exposure, often through water supplies, was known to cause cancer, liver damage and other health problems in people. Other impacts were found in nearby wildlife, reducing hatch rates in birds.

Plaintiffs in New Mexico’s PFAS case against the federal government were the New Mexico Environment Department, New Mexico Office of Natural Resources Trustee and the New Mexico Department of Justice.

“For over five years, the U.S. Department of Defense failed to take accountability for PFAS clean-up in New Mexico – leaving New Mexicans with a legacy of toxic PFAS pollution to shoulder,” said NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney in a statement.

“Thanks to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s science-driven leadership on PFAS, New Mexico will now hold the U.S. Department of Defense accountable for the monetary costs of clean-up and damages to our environment.”

The amended filing made New Mexico the first state in the U.S. to seek damages from the Department of Defense under the EPA’s PFAS guidance, NMED reported, and was intended to see the DOD pay to clean up PFAS in both public and private water sources on or near the bases.

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“PFAS has now contaminated freshwater aquifers on which the communities and hardworking people of New Mexico depend,” said New Mexico Natural Resources Trustee Maggie Hart Stebbins. “Our residents suffer when they can’t use that groundwater and it’s time for the federal government to compensate communities that are bearing the burden of its pollution.”

UNM study ties PFAS near Holloman to firefighting foam

PFAS levels near Holloman Air Force Base and around Alamogordo reached dangerous levels, according to a February report from the University of New Mexico, published in the journal Environmental Research.

A team of researchers from UNM’s Museum of Southwestern Biology (MSB) said there were “unexpectedly high levels” of PFAS contamination found in birds and mammals around the base in the Holloman Lake between the base and White Sands National Park. The lake is part of a fragile wetland system in the arid Tularosa Basin, part of a series of wastewater catchments ponds created by the Air Force.

“Because these large wetlands are the only ones in the region, they are immensely attractive to wildlife,” said MSB Director and biology professor Christopher Witt, a lead author of the study. “Holloman is one of the three most important wetlands in New Mexico for migratory waterbirds —over 100 species and tens of thousands of individuals use these habitats annually.

“The wetlands are also heavily used by people for recreation and hunting.”

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The study pointed to the Air Force’s firefighting practices at the base as the main cause of contamination. The foam was widely used starting in 1970 for training, the report read, but was recently phased out of manufacturing. Runoff from the base when the foam was in use flowed into the catchment ponds, read the report, leaching into local groundwater sources.

The research team conducted more than 2,000 measurements of PFAS compounds in different species and tissue types, focusing on aquatic birds due to their heavy exposure to water and because they are sought by hunters. Desert rodents were also tested to see if animals could be contaminated without exposure to the water.

Both were found contaminated.

“There were differences among species in how much of each PFAS they contained, reflecting differences in their habitats, diet, and physiology,” said co-author of the study Chauncey Gadek, a Ph.D. student at UNM”s Department of Biology. “Ultimately, these differences illustrate the different paths by which PFAS can move through ecosystems and accumulate in various species, including people.”

 Adrian Hedden can be reached at 734-972-6855, achedden@currentargus.com or @AdrianHedden on the social media platform X.

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New Mexico

The struggles holding New Mexico back

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The struggles holding New Mexico back





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University of New Mexico Health System provides first-time sleep apnea device surgery

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University of New Mexico Health System provides first-time sleep apnea device surgery


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – For those who struggle with lack of sleep, the University of New Mexico Health System and Sciences is providing a new way to treat sleep apnea.

High blood pressure, heart, and lung issues are just some of the impacts of sleep apnea, a condition where people have trouble breathing while they sleep.

“There’s been a device for many years called a CPAP that many people are familiar, which is a positive pressure device that a ‘not-surgical’ treatment, but some people can’t use that for whatever reason,” said Dr. Noah Syme, head and neck surgeon at the University of New Mexico.

A big issue with the current treatment is that most people who wear it to sleep find it highly uncomfortable. Dr. Syme is hoping to change that with the newer “inspire therapy” device.

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“It’s all internal, and it’s portable. The battery does have to be replaced eventually, but it has a 10-year battery life,” said Dr. Syme.

After an eight-year wait, Dr. Syme performed the first two surgeries at UNMH in June. In the surgery, he made two incisions, one under the jawline and the other on the chest. He then put in a device that looks similar to a pacemaker into position, which charges a wire.

“We place the wire in the neck around a nerve, and it’s the nerve that moves our tongue that helps us protrude our tongue. Because one of the things that happens with sleep apnea is the tongue falls to the back of the throat, and that’s how that upper airway gets closed,” said Dr. Syme.

While this treatment was first introduced in New Mexico two years ago, the recipients were extremely limited due to insurance. Now, it will be accessible to a much larger crowd.

“For me, that’s sort of the reason why I’m at the university is so that we can treat everybody regardless of what their insurance status is,” said Dr. Syme.

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Potential patients do have to meet certain requirements including being diagnosed with moderate to severe sleep apnea. Which is determined by a sleep study. You also need to meet a certain weight-to-height ratio or BMI. Finally, you must have already tried and failed the CPAP treatment.

“It’s important to me because it’s not just a new shiny thing to do, but it’s a thing that I think people really respond to well,” said Dr. Syme.

Dr. Syme stated his first patients have healed well and their devices will be activated on July 26, one month after the surgery.



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Heavy rain causes flash flood warnings across parts of New Mexico

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Heavy rain causes flash flood warnings across parts of New Mexico


Josh’s Saturday Evening Forecast

Very active weather has moved into New Mexico this afternoon. Storms will continue to drift off to the south and southwest as they continue to develop through this evening. Storms are capable of very heavy rain. A Flood Watch is in effect for much of New Mexico through Sunday night as well for a large portion of the state. Flash Flood Warnings have been issued as well for the South Fork and Salt Fire burn scars and surrounding areas. Burn scar flash flooding continues to be the biggest concern this weekend, but any strong thunderstorm could also drop heavy rain and cause flash flooding elsewhere.

Another active afternoon is likely on Monday as temperatures will be cooler across New Mexico. We will start to see some slightly drier air move in around the middle of next week, but thunderstorms will continue to develop each afternoon across parts of New Mexico.

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