VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The Navy says nine military personnel face disciplinary actions after a jet fuel spill at Oceana in May.
Rear Adm. Jack Scorby, Commander Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, said some of the nine could face court martial, but wouldn't say how many. Seven have already been disciplined. Their ranks range from junior enlisted sailors to senior officers. In addition, a Dept. of Defense civilian faces possible administrative punishment.
"We are holding people accountable for their actions, or inactions, that led to the spill, and have taken measures to keep this from happening again," Scorby said.
Around 94,000 gallons of jet fuel spilled when a fuel switch was in the wrong position during a a tank refueling on May 11th, the Navy said.
About 25,000 gallons of the fuel leaked into a nearby creek, causing the fumes to impact several neighborhoods. The Navy put dozens of families up in hotels during the cleanup. All but one have returned home, Scorby said.
The cleanup efforts have cost a total of $3.8 million, according to Scorby. "We've been working hard to make a terrible situation better," he said.
A fuel tank lever was in the wrong position, leading to the spill. Scorby described changes being made to procedures. Fueling operations will now only happen from 7:30 a.m, to 9:30 p.m. In addition, personnel are doing more patrol rounds during fueling. An overflow valve will cut off the fuel flow when the tank reaches 95%. The Navy is also now reviewing how sailors are selected and trained.
Neighbors who live near the creek say the smell is still bothering them. "Your eyes start watering. Your nose starts running," said Styron Daniels, who says her house still smells. "It's ridiculous. It's ridiculous."
Several continue to remain worried about the effects of the fumes from the jet fuel. "We're trying to trust the military," said Shannon Fox, who says her children keep getting headaches. "[The military is] trying to tell us that it's safe, but our bodies are telling us maybe it's not so safe." The Navy has maintained there are no health risks.