Navy: 9 sailors face disciplinary action in Oceana jet fuel spill

WAVY/Matt Gregory

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Nine sailors are facing disciplinary action in a May 10 jet fuel spill at Naval Air Station Oceana, U.S. Navy officials announced.

Rear Adm. Jack Scorby, the Navy’s Mid-Atlantic Region Commander, briefed members of the media Friday on the cleanup efforts and an investigation into the spill.

An incident May 10 resulted in 94,000 of JP-5 jet fuel to spill at Oceana. Officials said last month that a fuel switch was in the wrong position during a transfer, causing fuel to be routed into a smaller tank — leading to an overflow.

Scorby said that as of Friday the cost of cleanup has totaled $3.8 million.

An investigation into the spill found “multiple instances of human error” and number of instances in which sailors on watch failed to perform their duties, according to Scorby.

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The manual fuel lever was open from 2 p.m. on May 10 until 6:25 a.m. May 11.

Scorby said nine Military personnel responsible – ranging from officers and junior enlisted sailors — in the spill now face disciplinary and administrative actions.

These actions range from referral to trial by court-martial, as well as removal or reassignment.

“Because of the ongoing legal process, and individual privacy acts, I cannot provide names or specific disciplinary actions,” Scorby said, noting that seven of the actions had been completed as of Friday.

Potential administrative action is being considered for a Department of Defense contractor, Scorby noted.

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Officials said last month that 25,000 gallons of the overflowed fuel went off base and into the community — with some going into nearby waterways. The Navy offered temporary relocation to residents in nearby neighborhoods.

Families who were temporarily relocated are receiving help in filing claims for any losses that may have been caused by the spill.

Scorby said personnel are now conducting increased rounds during fueling operations. Engineers have added a spring-loaded drain valve alongside the manual valve.

“What this means is I would have to hold the fuel lever down, and if I release that lever, it will automatically close the fuel flow,” Scorby said.

An over-fuel prevention valve is being added to the 2,000 gallon recovery tank – which would cut off any fuel flow once the amount reaches 95 percent capacity.

Scorby said the Navy is reviewing the way sailors are selected and trained for the fuel facility at Oceana.