50,000 gallons of leaked jet fuel still eluding Mildenhall officials
RAF MILDENHALL, England — A week after more than 50,000 gallons of jet fuel seeped into the soil at this air base after an underground pipe was punctured, base officials still don’t know where the fuel has gone.
Trenches have been dug on either side of the excavated break site and across the taxiway where a contractor initially put the drill into the ground that punctured the pipeline, and there is no sign of the JP8 fuel.
The pipe broke when the contractor was drilling a hole underground at about 9:50 p.m. on April 20. Base officials have refused to release the name of the contractor.
Base representatives did not respond to requests for more information on the spill by Stripes’ deadline Thursday.
An aquifer that supplies tap water to the area sits beneath the base, but no evidence of water contamination has been found, Collette Nichols, a spokeswoman for Anglian Water Services, a utility that supplies the area, said Thursday.
While base officials have said that upwards of 50,000 gallons might have seeped into the ground, the exact amount lost won’t be known until the pipe is repaired and fuel starts flowing through it again. Those monitoring the tanks will then be able to see how much it takes to fill the line.
The fuel could be deeper than where workers have dug so far, floating at the top of groundwater that lies three to four meters below the surface, said Ian Hill, an environment team leader with Britain’s Environment Agency.
Information about the incident was not made public until five days after the spill.
Lt. Col. Scott Hartford, commander of Mildenhall’s 100th Civil Engineering Squadron, said the base didn’t report the spill to the public because officials wanted to make sure the information was “factual.”
Workers began assessing the spill last weekend.