Special Report: An Uncertain Future

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — 10 On Your Side is investigating after jet fuel spread through a Virginia Beach neighborhood in May.

A month ago, a fuel switch in the wrong position led to 94,000 gallons of jet fuel spilling at NAS Oceana. Thousands of gallons poured into several nearby neighborhoods.

Navy offers temporary relocation to some residents near Oceana fuel spill

Richard Madden was one of the people who left their home because of the fumes.

On May 11, thousands gallons of Navy jet fuel seeped into the creek near his home. The fumes poured into his house in Brookegreen Commons. When we spoke with him back then, Madden wore a mask everywhere.

“It’s probably one of the most terrible things I’ve been through in my life, to be honest with you,” Madden said.

After weeks away, he finally returned. However, Madden is concerned about his health and the health of his neighbors.

“I just wanna be sure there’s no long-term effects from this…that we’re gonna pay for this later.”

The Navy said Thursday that officials would be announcing disciplinary and corrective actions being taken in the aftermath of the spill.

10 On Your Side took Madden’s questions to Dr. Joshua Sill from the Eastern Virginia Medical School. Dr. Sill said it’s hard to gauge long-term effects.

“We don’t have a lot of information,” he said. “We just don’t have a lot of great studies looking at this because obviously there aren’t a lot of people who are going to volunteer to be part of a study where they get exposed to this kind of stuff.”

However, Dr. Sill said the studies that have been done show temporary issues.

“Neurological problems with coordination, memory loss, headaches and those kinds of things have all been reported,” he said.

“There is no way this is healthy, this is one of the most terrible smells I’ve had outdoors ever,” Richard Madden said.

Madden took us for a walk to the creek near his home. It’s a place he used to find peace.

“We used to come down and fish, we used to crab down here, we used to ride our canoe down here. I’ll never do that here now,” he explained.

Dr. Carl Hershner works at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. His focus is wetlands, specifically marshes.

“A Marsh doesn’t look like much, except a bunch of plants growing on a water’s edge, but what’s going on in this system is really remarkable,” Dr. Hershner said.

In the simplest terms, healthy marshes provide a home for wildlife. Marshes also clean the water that flows to the Chesapeake bay. But Dr. Hershner said when you see the marsh near Richard Madden, you see a wetlands struggling to survive.

“In its current condition habitat value is greatly reduced and water quality services are greatly diminished,” Dr. Hershner said.

Hershner said the marsh grass tells the story. You should see green tall blades, but in madden’s creek you see bent over brown grass. In a healthy wetland fiddler crabs scavenge for food, but here you see an empty shore line.

“You cant really fix it, once it has happened,” Dr. Hershner explained.

By the end of the summer Dr. Hershner hopes the creek has improved, but if it hasn’t by then it will take more work to fix.

“We are gonna have to go in and put in new plants and try to re-establish,” he said.

An uncertain future spilling over in Virginia Beach.