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RAF MILDENHALL, England — A faulty valve is being blamed for a massive spill at RAF Fairford this summer that released 50,000 gallons of firefighting foam into a nearby waterway.

An investigation into the malfunction conducted by the Air Force Civil Engineer Support Agency in October blames a broken “diverter valve” that did not route the foam and water to a destination where it could be adequately contained, according to a news release by the 501st Combat Support Wing, the unit that oversees the geographically diffuse Air Force bases in England.

The foam suppression system was located in a hangar, and what exactly caused the system to accidentally go off on July 5 remains unclear.

According to the report, “high expansion foam” is discharged for the first 15 minutes of the system’s activation, followed by water that runs “until the pumps are manually shut down or the water supply tanks become exhausted,” the 501st release states.

“Since the system’s diverter valve was not functional, the water which flowed after the 15-minute foam supply went directly to the installation drainage system.”

Since the spill, the valve in question has been replaced and the foam suppression system is turned off unless there are aircraft in the hangar, the release states.

Personnel in charge of environmental and fire protection also have updated their emergency response plans accordingly, the release said.

The foam was found in area waterways and its origins were not immediately clear in July. The foam-water mixture first flowed into nearby Dudgrove Brook, where it killed about 700 fish.

It eventually made it into larger waterways, including the River Thames, but eventually dissipated on its own.

A report by the British Environment Agency in August found that the water quality in the affected waterways found “no conclusive evidence” of a lessened water quality.

Derrow named command chief for USAFE

Stars and StripesEuropean edition, Friday, December 28, 2007

U.S. Air Forces in Europe Commander Gen. Roger A. Brady has named the command’s next top-ranking enlisted airman, according to an Air Force release.

Brady selected Chief Master Sgt. Pamela Derrow as USAFE’s command chief master sergeant.

Derrow will replace Command Chief Master Sgt. Gary G. Coleman, who will retire in May. She is expected to take her new position in January when Brady assumes control of the command. Brady replaces Gen. Tom Hobbins, who recently retired.

Derrow recently stepped down as commandant of the noncommissioned officer academy at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., home to the Air Education and Training Command. She spent 2½ years at the senior NCO academy where she implemented a career development program and guest lecture series, according to the release.

She also oversaw the academy’s shift to a wartime operation. The move involved developing more deployment-related courses and requiring airmen to wear battlefield dress uniforms instead of blues.

Derrow joined the Air Force in January 1980 and was promoted to chief in 2000. As command chief master sergeant, she will advise Brady on all issues related to the enlisted force.

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