An incorrectly positioned switch that routed jet fuel into a tank that was too small and overflowed for hours appears to be the cause of a spill last week at Oceana Naval Air Station that contaminated a nearby creek and chased residents from their homes, Navy Rear Adm. Jack Scorby said Friday.One writer had to turn this into a "social justice" issue: Outcry would have been heard in Richmond, had jet fuel spill happened in more affluent part of Virginia Beach
Scorby, commander of Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, said how the switch was left in the wrong position is still under investigation. The jet fuel was routed into a 2,000-gallon tank instead of three 880,000-gallon tanks. The Navy doubled the number of active-duty and civilian personnel assigned to stand watch and handle quality control around the clock at the fuel farm where the spill occurred, following a safety review, he said.
About 94,000 gallons of jet fuel – the equivalent of a little more than 1,700 55-gallon drums – spilled during a routine refueling at Oceana during the evening of May 10. It is believed to be the largest ever at Oceana, the Navy’s master East Coast jet base.
The spill went unnoticed until the next morning. By then, about 25,000 gallons had spread to London Bridge Road as well as a ditch that runs parallel to it and into Wolfsnare Creek, a tributary of the Lynnhaven River.
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There are no national standards for exposure to the jet fuel spilled at Oceana, said Dr. Heidi Kulberg, Virginia Beach Director of Public Health. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health sets an air quality benchmark for workers without respiratory protection at 14 parts per million for an 8-hour day over a 40-hour work week, she said.
There was one reading of 17 parts per million taken in the Oceana spill’s immediate aftermath, but that was far away from a residential area, Kulberg said. All other readings taken since then have been well below that, she said.
Air quality readings taken in affected neighborhoods since Tuesday afternoon have been near zero, Scorby said. Tests of drinking water wells of two area residents also came back clear.
The Navy said booms placed along Wolfsnare Creek appeared to have stopped the fuel before it reached the Lynnhaven River, but approximately 700 animals – about 75 percent of which were fish – have been found dead.
As of Friday morning, 48 families – 177 people – had accepted the Navy’s offer to temporarily move to area hotels, Navy officials said.
Let’s pretend it was residents in these neighborhoods sprinkled liberally with McMansions who were told it was safe for them to stay in their homes, despite fuel fumes that were so strong they had headaches and were gagging.Yep, let's bulldoze those neighborhoods, and put in another Navy base.
Chances are, there would have been a parade of Mercedes and BMWs headed to Norfolk as the residents ignored official assurances of safety and decamped to The Main.