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Dairy files complaint against US, DoD and Air Force

A family dairy battling contaminated groundwater adjacent to Cannon Air Force Base has filed a complaint against the United States, the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force.

Art and Renee Schaap, doing business as Highland Dairy of Clovis, filed the claim Thursday in U.S. District Court in South Carolina. The court is also handling various suits regarding perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

Highland claims negligence, nuisance, trespass and failure to warn by the defendants.

The claim requests a jury trial in New Mexico and seeks damages to be determined at trial covering the repair or restoration of property, the cattle, the filtration system.

The dairy has also filed suit against manufacturers and suppliers of PFOS.

The complaint alleges the Air Force used harmful chemicals in its firefighting foam for decades, failed to notify Highland of the contamination and only provided clean water for human consumption while not considering water for animal or agricultural consumption.

The chemicals, the claim said, do not break down in the environment and in the case of Highland Dairy contaminated the water supply used for nearly 7,000 cattle.

Art Schaap, according to the claim, noticed his cattle were each producing less milk to the tune of $1 million in annual losses. He did not consider water supply contamination until he received a letter in August 2018 from CAFB. A few weeks after initial contact from the base, testing determined PFOA and PFOS at more than 23 times and nine times advisory levels established by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The dairy soon saw purchase agreements terminated and in November 2018 received a suspension of its milk production permit by the New Mexico Department of Agriculture.

“Defendants,” the claim said, “through the negligent, reckless and/or intentional acts and omissions have contaminated plaintiff’s wells, rendering water served from them unfit for human, animal or agricultural consumption.”

Air Force officials have said repeatedly they do not have the legal authority to take actions on behalf of livestock or agricultural products.

New Mexico is suing the Air Force over the chemicals near Cannon and Holloman Air Force Base.

The state’s environment department and attorney general’s office have requested a preliminary injunction to compel the Air Force to begin immediate cleanup. Those legal actions await a federal judge’s decision.


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