By Michael Stewart / Executive Editor
The Meridian Star
Cleanup efforts to remove contaminated soil from a Thursday leak in an underground pipeline that supplies jet fuel to NAS Meridian could begin as early today.
At a Friday press conference outside the base's commercial gate off Rabbit Road, Capt. Charles C. Moore II, commanding officer at NAS Meridian, said the spill had been contained.
"We have moved on to cleanup operations," Moore said.
Jet fuel that had pooled up on the ground was discovered on the base at about 3:30 p.m. Thursday, about 50 to 75 yards from Ponta Creek. NAS emergency responders placed absorbent booms around the spill site and Lauderdale Emergency Management Agency workers placed another absorbent boom in Ponta Creek about 1.5 miles downstream from the spill site off the base.
LEMA Director David Sharp said that the absorbent boom in Ponta Creek was checked throughout Thursday night and again Friday and that no traces of jet fuel were found.
Sharp said the only indication that fuel had reached the creek was in the form of spots of light sheen on top of the water near the spill site that occurred the day of the spill that consisted of minute traces of fuel.
"As far as we know that never even reached the first boom site off base," Sharp said. "There is no danger for Lauderdale County residents."
Although it is believed a 4-inch pipe used to transport the jet fuel 5.5 miles from the community of Lockhart to storage tanks at the base is the source of the leak, that will not be confirmed until the pipe is dug up, possibly today.
"We think that's probably where it is coming from but until we lay eyes on it we can't say for sure," Sharp said.
The contaminated soil will be removed with an excavator, placed into a roll-off box and transported to a hazardous waste landfill, Sharp said.
It isn't known how many gallons of jet fuel spilled, Moore said. McCain Pipeline Co., which owns the pipe is doing an assessment to make that determination.
"This requires their checking the tanks here at the bulk-field storage, as well as the quantity that still exists in the pipes," Moore said. "Once they have a better understanding of what's in the pipes and in the tanks they can better assess the actual amount spilled."
The segment of pipe where the suspected leak occurred was isolated with shutoff valves to prevent the possibility of any future leakage. Once the contaminated soil has been removed and it is confirmed that the pipe was the source of the leak, the damaged section will be replaced, officials said.
U.S. Environmental Services, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency Region 4 officials are monitoring cleanup efforts at the spill site.
"I also want to point out that the McCain Pipeline has been instrumental in helping to support us in execution of these efforts as well," Moore said.
The spill did not impact the base's ability to conduct flight training missions, base officials said.
"We have plenty of fuel reserves on station and we have alternate means of obtaining more fuel if it is required," Moore said.