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Utilizing multiple hydrogeologic and anthropogenic indicators to understand zones of groundwater contribution to water-supply wells near Kirtland Air Force Base Bulk Fuels Facility in southeast Albuquerque, New Mexico

October 4, 2021

In 1999, a jet-fuels release was discovered at the Bulk Fuels Facility on Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Contaminants had reached the water table and migrated north-northeast toward water-supply wells. Monitoring wells were installed downgradient from the facility to determine the primary zones of groundwater production for water-supply wells and assess contaminant presence. The monitoring wells are screened within the Santa Fe Group aquifer system, which includes clay units, at depths as great as 445 meters below land surface, and were categorized as water table, shallow, middle, deep, and aquifer-test pumping wells. Water-supply wells are screened across multiple water-bearing units within the aquifer system. All wells were sampled for major ions, trace elements, nutrients, stable isotopes, dissolved gases, tritium, carbon isotopes, and chlorofluorocarbons. The deeper and water-supply wells have evidence of longer groundwater residence times, as much as thousands of years, and water from the shallower wells shows evidence of anthropogenic nutrient inputs. Aquifer recharge is derived from either the mountain front or seepage from the Rio Grande. Dissolved-gas data indicate that the middle, deep, and aquifer-test pumping, and water-supply wells have cooler recharge temperatures than the shallower wells. Inferred groundwater age varies by method but indicates that the deeper, aquifer-test pumping, and water-supply wells have older water, as much as 15,000 years before present. Results indicate that the water-supply wells draw primarily from the middle and deeper portions of the aquifer system below the clay units and have not been affected by the contaminant plume, although some data indicate a potential for modern water entering some of the deeper and water-supply wells.