Navy starts voluntary relocation for residents affected by Oceana jet fuel spill

By Stacy Parker, The Virginian-Pilot


Residents in areas affected by a jet fuel spill last week learned Wednesday they can stay in hotels at the Navy’s expense while the cleanup continues.

The problem, for some, was that the offer came a little too late.

“They should have done this the day it happened, just as a precaution,” said Maria Dunlap of Cheltenham Square. “You hold your breath going to your car.”

Three neighborhoods near Naval Air Station Oceana suffered the brunt of the May 10 spill, which dumped roughly 94,000 gallons of jet fuel – about one-seventh of the capacity of an Olympic-size swimming pool. The material seeped into a ditch along London Bridge Road and spread to Wolfsnare Creek before the Navy discovered the problem.

“I don’t recall, looking back, having a spill of this magnitude,” said Capt. Rich Meadows, Oceana’s commanding officer. “Mitigation measures are already in place to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

The neighborhoods affected include Brook Greene Commons, Nottingham Estates and Cheltenham Square.

Navy personnel went door to door Wednesday afternoon to inform people about their options. Residents were given a phone number to call to book a local hotel room, which will be available through Tuesday, or longer if needed, the Navy said. The city also has been helping the Navy find available hotel rooms.

The source of the spill was the bulk fuel farm on the base, Meadows said.

Initially, the Navy used vacuum trucks to remove most of the jet fuel, which stays on the water’s surface. Crews are flushing the marsh with the fire main and working with the tides to allow the contaminants to flow out where there are booms and absorbent materials to catch what remains of the spill.

The odor is worse at low tide.

John Giese, scene coordinator for the state Department of Environmental Quality, said, “There will be a visible presence of containment boom to capture sheening that comes out of the marsh.”

The air quality has not posed a health hazard, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

At least 100 people attended a meeting Monday night looking for answers about the spill and its effect on their health and homes.

Several people have complained of sore throats, headaches and other symptoms from breathing fumes coming off the water near their houses.

Styron Daniels, a Brook Greene Commons resident, has a runny nose and burning eyes. She also has lost her appetite.

“I think it’s a little late,” she said of the hotel offer. “It’s a nice gesture a week later.”

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