In August of last year Art Shaap’s life and livelihood changed in a heart beat. It was then that the owner of Highland Dairy in Clovis, New Mexico, started dumping 15,000 gallons of milk each day because his animals and seven of his 13 wells had been contaminated with runoff from the nearby Cannon Air Force Base. As a result of the contamination, he is now planning to euthanize 4,000 milk cows.
The contaminates are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and not only are they in his groundwater, his cows and his calves, Shaap’s blood contains eight to 10 times normal levels of the substances.
Shaap is a 54 year-old, second generation dairy farmer. He had the dairy and a cheese making business that employed 40 people. Now, he can’t sell milk, he can’t sell beef, he can’t sell the crops or his land. Everything he has worked for has disappeared in blink of an eye.
He may not be alone in his predicament for long. There are more than 80,000 dairy cattle in Curry County, where Shaap’s farm is, and reports say the contamination is moving towards the Ogalla Aquifer, the largest aquifer in the U.S.
PFAS are found in flame retardant foam. They are used extensively in drills used to train Air Force personnel to put out airplane fires.