Air Force praised for quick response to Elmendorf fuel spill

Posted: Thursday, May 09, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Cleanup of a jet fuel spill at Elmendorf Air Force Base is nearly complete -- an effort that won the praise of state environmental officials.

In the May 1 spill, between 850 and 1,000 gallons of fuel sprayed from a cracked glass tube used to check a valve on the base's airfield fuel pipeline. The mishap occurred at a hangar on the north side of the base's east-west runway.

Cleanup is expected to cost more than $125,000, said Doris Thomas, a spokeswoman for Elmendorf's environmental branch.

State environmental officials lauded the base's fast response to the spill. Thirty-six people responded, including base personnel and employees of cleanup contractor Ray F. Weston Inc.

The high-pressure pipeline can spew large amounts of fuel, said Dave Zuker, the state Department of Environmental Conservation specialist who reviews spill plans.

''Any amount of fuel is too much to spill but based on the amount of fuel they pump and the way their system's set up, they responded very quickly,'' Zuker told the Anchorage Daily News.

Crews shut down the pipeline's main valve within five minutes, installed absorbent pads and formed dirt berms in the area, Thomas said.

Two vacuum trucks recovered about 650 gallons of the JP-8 aviation fuel that escaped into a pit surrounding the valve, said Frank Wesser, a DEC spill prevention and response specialist. Another truck removed about 50 gallons that overflowed the pit onto an asphalt parking lot, Wesser said.

The remaining amount doesn't pose a threat to groundwater on base, Thomas and Wesser said.

The spill covered about 800 square feet of ground, prompting cleanup of 400 cubic yards of soil, Thomas said. The soil will be incinerated to remove the fuel.

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