SANTA FE, N.M. (KAMR/KCIT) – New Mexico Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández (D) held a press conference with Highland Dairy Owner Art Schaap, regarding the company’s status after its 2018 water contamination at the hands of Cannon Air Force Base.

In 2018, Cannon Air Force Base informed the surrounding community that the groundwater had been contaminated with PFAS. According to the U.S. EPA, someone who drinks water exceeding 70 parts per trillion of PFOA and PFOS over a lifetime may suffer adverse health effects.

PFAS are known as “forever” chemicals because they do not easily degrade in the environment due to their chemical properties. Thus, PFAS can accumulate over time in soil, water, and living organisms and have been found in water sources around the world.

More information on PFAS is available on the U.S.EPA’s website.

Because of the PFAS levels found in the water, Fernández’s office said that the USDA prohibited Highland Dairy’s milk and cattle from being sold. Monthly milk payments to the Dairy were given under the Dairy Indemnity Payment Program (DIPP) for a time, but support was ended in December of 2020 due to what Fernández’s office claimed was “an arbitrary 18-month Trump-era limit on DIPP payments.”

Fernández and Schaap said during the meeting that the Dairy continues to suffer “devastating economic consequences” from the contamination. Fernández’s office said that Highland Dairy has, “approximately 4 thousand poisoned cows that are slowly dying off and has been without any support from USDA for over six months, jeopardizing the livelihood of Art Schaap and his employees.”