Amount of fuel spilled at RAF Fairford unknown
February 27, 2009
Thousands of gallons of jet fuel spilled out of a storage facility at RAF Fairford on Wednesday afternoon, but Air Force officials have yet determine exactly how much.
The Air Force had pegged the spill at about 3,000 gallons until Thursday evening when a spokeswoman said that figure likely was underestimated. Meanwhile, the U.K. Environment Agency estimated the spill at about 17,000 gallons, according to its spokeswoman.
Some of the fuel flowed beyond the earthen containment site near the storage facility and into a ditch off base, said Tech. Sgt. Kristina Barrett, base spokeswoman.
The spill did not affect animals or plant life and did not seep into public water sources, Barrett said.
However, the Environment Agency, part of the response and clean-up effort at the site, contends some discharge made its way to the Dunfield Beck watercourse toward Marston Masey and that the agency is still assessing the impact, according to an e-mailed statement from Elisa Wilson, the agency’s spokeswoman.
The Air Force said the incident occurred after an alarm and automatic shut-off switch malfunctioned in the pump house of the storage facility. The 25-foot-high earth-covered storage facility is one of four at Fairford, which houses and fuels transient aircraft. Together, the facilities can hold up to 10 million gallons of jet fuel.
After the incident, the remaining fuel in the storage facility was removed and the facility shut down. Noxious fumes have prevented workers from entering the pump house to determine what went wrong, Barrett said.
A faulty valve was blamed in a 2007 spill at Fairford in which 50,000 gallons of firefighting foam was discharged in a hangar and nearby waterway. A report released by the environment agency in 2008 said there was no environmental impact from the incident, Barrett said. There have been no other spills between then and now, she said.