KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (KRQE) - A new system many times more effective than a current one is going after the millions of gallons of aviation fuel leaked into the ground over the decades at Kirtland Air Force Base.
On Friday KAFB Commander Col. John Kubinec and Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry showed off the newest system being used to reclaim the fuel that's been spreading underground since the 1950s.
The soil vapor system sucks the fuel out of the ground and then burns it.
The base was already using smaller versions of this system, which was showing success, so the Air Force brought in a bigger version that soaks up 17 times more fuel.
"(It) has capacity to pump a lot more of the fuel out of the ground quicker." KAFB engineer Brent Wilson said.
It's estimated about two million gallons of fuel leaked into the subsurface through rusty underground pipes over several decades.
"While we're very proud of this system, we think it's going to do great work in cleaning up the fuel, we know there's still a long ways to go," Kubinec said. "We're committed to that in the long haul."
The extractor runs 24 hours a day and measures how much fuel it has burned.
The Air Force and city have been monitoring to make sure it hasn't reached the water people drink in the area.
"I drink the same water as the people that I serve, and I want to make sure that the water coming out of that tap is safe to drink," Berry said. "And it is."
The Air Force has been working with the city, state and the feds to clean up the mess that has cost them millions.
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