Navy holds forum as jet fuel spill cleanup continues in Va. Beach

Crews work to clean-up a spill of jet fuel along a creek in Virginia Beach May 15, 2017. Navy officials say about 94,000 gallons of jet fuel spilled at NAS Oceana May 11. (Matt Gregory/WAVY Photo)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP/WAVY) — Officials held a public meeting Monday night for residents concerned about a large jet fuel spill at Naval Air Station Oceana.

The Navy says the fuel leaked from a tank at Oceana on Thursday and spread onto adjoining properties and waterways. A Navy spokesperson told 10 On Your Side the amount of fuel spilled could fill up 35 F/A-18E jets.

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Cleanup crews worked round the clock through the weekend to soak up the jet fuel.

Overnight Monday, crews opened up all lanes of London Bridge Road that had been closed because of the spill. WAVY’s Matt Gregory reports the smell of jet fuel was strong Monday coming from a creek off the Lynnhaven River, where crews were seen back at it Monday morning.

Capt. Rich Meadows, commander of the naval air station, says crews flushed all of the contaminant out of London Bridge Creek and have started working to clear Wolfsnare Creek.

“We have almost completed our cleanup efforts on London Bridge Road, moved the heavy equipment, and were able to work with the city to open the roadway to normal traffic late [Sunday] evening,” Capt. Meadows said in a news released Monday afternoon. “We are now concentrating cleanup efforts to the western side of London Bridge Road and into the Arrowfield Road area.”

About 100 people attended a public information meeting held at London Bridge Baptist Church Monday evening. Many of those who showed up expressed concerns about the progress of the cleanup and health effects related to the spill. Some said they felt satisfied that they got the answers they were looking for, but others said they feel like they’re still in the dark.

Neighbors told 10 On Your Side Monday the whole experience has been miserable.

“It’s in the carpets, it’s in drapes… I mean, it’s in everything,” resident Styron Daniels said. “We can’t turn on the air conditioner or anything, either, because it comes in through the duct.”

Health department officials admitted at Monday’s meeting that they “don’t have a lot of answers,” because jet fuel spills like this one don’t happen often, and there haven’t been many studies on the effects of jet fuel on people.

Doctors on hand at the public meeting said air samples show low levels of chemicals in the air. They reiterated that there is no need to evacuate. Dr. Heidi Kulberg, of the Virginia Department of Health, says the smell of jet fuel is not dangerous, but may cause sore throat, nausea, dizziness or headaches.

Richard Madden, who lives nearby, tells 10 On Your Side he’s taken to wearing a mask because of these issues.

“Since Friday, we’ve had headaches, nausea, nose flared up and sore throats,” he said.

Madden has used construction plastic wrap to close off parts of his home because he smells the fumes inside his house.

“Different people’s bodies react differently to even minute levels of irritants,” Dr. Kulberg said. “There is not clear cut black and white nice little bullet points to give out information even on a national level about the effects of JP5.”

The Navy says one hazardous materials worker did pass out on the job due to dehydration.

Capt. Meadows could not provide a timeline for completion of the cleanup. In the meantime, Navy officials say they are working on a website to post updates, advisories and answers to resident’s questions. They hope to have the site live by Tuesday.

Stay with WAVY.com for continuing coverage of this developing story.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.