Thursday, May 11, 2017

Thousands of gallons of jet fuel spilled at Oceana Naval Air Station

VIRGINIA BEACH  -   Thousands of gallons of spilled jet fuel at Oceana Naval Air Station weren't discovered Thursday morning before some already had seeped into a tributary of the Lynnhaven River that crosses under a major road and by some neighborhoods. 

The Coast Guard said it had contained the spill in Wolfsnare Creek, while Navy officials said air- and water-quality monitoring showed it wasn't endangering the public.

"Right now, all of our measurements have not even come close to where there's any threat to human health ," Coast Guard Capt. Kevin Carroll, deputy commander of Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads, said during a Thursday afternoon news conference. 

Tens of thousands of gallons of jet fuel escaped when a line at the base's bulk fuel facility began leaking unnoticed Wednesday, according to Beth Baker, a Navy Region Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman.  

The facility is adjacent to London Bridge Road, where traffic was rerouted for most of Thursday. 

The Navy said it had contained the spill on base Thursday, but not before it had spread to London Bridge Road as well as a ditch that runs parallel to it and into Wolfsnare Creek.

Carroll said barriers had been setup to prevent the fuel from seeping further, and fuel had not spread up the creek past Interstate 264 north of Oceana. Most of the spilled fuel remained on the base, Carroll said.

Coast Guard helicopters and watercraft checked the creek and it was "not showing any signs of sheen at this time," Carroll said.

Tim Ewell lives on London Bridge Road about a mile from the fuel tanks. He said he stepped outside around 10:30 a.m. to a heavy fuel smell. It persisted into Thursday afternoon as cleanup crews worked. 

"Whenever the wind picks up, I can smell it," he said Thursday afternoon. 

Baker said the spill did not affect the base's flight operations. Oceana serves as the Navy's East Coast master jet base and is home to multiple squadrons of F-18 fighter aircraft.

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