Special Operations Wing commander visits PFAS-affected dairies near Cannon AFB

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U.S. Air Force Col. Terence Taylor, 27th Special Operations Wing commander, Rick Masters, 27 SOW director of staff, Art Schaap, Highland Dairy owner, and John Kern, Clean Water Partnership Cannon executive director, discuss PFAS remedial investigation and cleanup efforts Dec. 13, 2021, at the Highland Dairy in Clovis, New Mexico. Col. Taylor and other senior officials visited Schaap’s dairy in order to learn more about how contaminated water impacted surrounding agricultural facilities. The Air Force Civil Engineer Center is utilizing various avenues of investigations, interagency collaboration, and direct community feedback in order to best address PFAS environmental issues surrounding Cannon AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

CLOVIS, N.M. (KAMR/KCIT) – Clovis dairy farmer Art Schaap first learned his water was contaminated with PFAS chemicals in October of 2018. Since then, as reported in March 2021, Schaap said he has been forced to dump tens of millions of pounds of milk, losing millions of dollars in revenue.

The contamination came after PFAS chemicals in firefighting foam used by the United States Department of Defense impacted groundwater at both the Cannon and Holloman Air Force Bases. Over the last year, federal officials said they have been working to develop ways to clean up the chemicals, and the EPA listed several PFAS chemicals as “hazardous” under federal law, leading to more avenues to deal with the contamination through federal waste guidelines.

“That you can’t just ruin someone’s business and to me, it’s a trespass. They basically ruined our whole business, they ruined our whole livelihood, and for us,” said Schaap, upon the new EPA listing of the chemicals, “It’s very welcoming. We waited three years and we have been fighting for justice, not only for the state of New Mexico but nationwide to set standards.”

Previously, Schaap had filed lawsuits against manufacturers, the Air Force, and DoD surrounding the issue.

After the recent trillion-dollar federal infrastructure bill included provisions toward getting PFAS contamination cleaned, and multiple hearings through December regarding federal efforts to address the issue and updates from Cannon AFD, multiple officials met with Schaap last week to continue the discussion.

Cannon AFB said that U.S. Air Force Col. and 27th Special Operations Wing (27 SOW) Commander Terence Taylor, 27 SOW Director of Staff Rick Masters, and Clean Water Partnership Cannon Executive Director John Kern, discussed PFAS remedial investigation and cleanup efforts with Schaap at the Highland Dairy. The visit was reportedly centered around officials learning more about how contaminated water impacted the area’s agricultural facilities.

“The Air Force Civil Engineer Center is utilizing various avenues of investigations,” said Cannon AFB, “interagency collaboration, and direct community feedback in order to best address PFAS environmental issues surrounding Cannon AFB.”

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