European edition, Saturday, June 30, 2007

RAF MILDENHALL, England — About 3,600 gallons of JP8 jet fuel have been cleaned up at the site where an underground fuel line was ruptured in April.

About 600 gallons of fuel have been extracted from the local water table, while about 3,000 gallons have been pulled out of excavated soil, base representatives said in an e-mail late last week.

While final numbers won’t be known until the pipe is running fuel again, officials are now saying that up to 50,000 gallons of fuel might have been released into the ground on April 20, down from an earlier estimate of up to 65,000 gallons.

The spill happened when a contractor drilled through the fuel line. The British Environment Agency and the Ministry of Defence are investigating the spill. Citing the ongoing investigation, they have refused to provide the name of the contractor involved.

Fuel has been moving toward a well where an English utility pumps drinking water for the local populace. The spill site sits a few miles from the well.

Authorities involved in the cleanup said previously that migration of the fuel on the water table and toward the drinking water well is a slow process that could take years.

Some of the monitor and recovery wells placed about 100 meters from the spill have indicated fuel contamination, but so far, wells placed farther out have not been impacted, Lt. Col. Scott Hartford, 100th Civil Engineering Squadron commander, said in an e-mail, adding that the fuel will “degrade and disperse” as it moves.

Starting in July, the wells will be monitored every two weeks to track the fuel’s spread, according to Hartford.

Missions at Mildenhall have not been greatly affected by the spill or recovery, Hartford said.

“Minimally, a segment of taxiway was closed during the initial response so that construction of the recovery system could be accomplished,” Hartford wrote. “The recovery system over time will not affect operations.”

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