U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Michael S. Murphy
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Michael S. Murphy

Andersen conducts Fuel Spill Exercise

by Airman 1st Class Michael Murphy
Andersen Air Force Base

The 36th Wing Inspector General team conducted a fuel spill exercise at the split of Arc Light Boulevard and Carolines Avenue here on Nov. 6 at 8:30 a.m.

The exercise was a test for Andersen emergency personnel in their responsiveness and capability to properly contain a 6,000 gallon fuel spill from an R-11 Refueler Unit. The simulation included a vehicle crashing into the refuler unit, resulting in the fuel spill. Water was used in place of actual fuel.

The exercise is regularly conducted across the Department of Defense.

“It’s required by law,” said Tracy Taylor, Defense Logistics Agency contractor, and Taylor and Taylor Consulting president. “You have the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 that basically requires installations like this and industries to conduct annual training and exercises to prevent or at least prepare to respond to a spill like this.”

Spills can cause a variety of issues, including financial loss, man hours, and possible environmental impact.

“To conduct and exercise and verify your plan and ensure your equipment is operational just means that you are on top when the real thing happens,” said Taylor.

The looming concern for this particular exercise was the environmental impact from a fuel spill.

“This is relatively easy to clean up because it’s a hard surface but where it reaches that grassy area, all of that soil would need to be taken up and remediated or just flat out disposed of,” said Jeff Laitila, 36th Civil Engineer Squadron environmental flight chief. “That’s where the cost really comes into play.”

Laitila said that the perspective for the environmental team attending the exercise wasn’t from a fire, safety and health side, but from what the damage would be environmentally. They wanted to see what the flow would actually look like and where potential threats are and how to minimize it.

“Containment,” said Laitila. “That’s the key. The smaller the area you have to clean up is directly related to the cost and the damage to the environment.”

Laitila estimated that in the possibility of a real world scenario where a fuel spill was not properly contained, that the cleanup could be substantial, costing AAFB a team of three to four contractors working for almost three to four months to do the job right.

The first line in responding to the event was Airman 1st Class Zachary Alcantara, 36th Logistics Readiness Squadron distro operator, who was driving the truck when it began. Alcantara says that he was glad to be the one responding and welcomed the training, even though it was a little nerve wracking.

“I was hoping to walk away with more knowledge,” said Alcantara. “And not just from my shop’s response, but the other agencies responses because I knew that there was going to be at least two or three other agencies coming out to help respond. I was hoping to just walk away with more confidence for next time.”

Overall, the exercise was labeled a success, said both Taylor and Laitila.

“This has been a great simulation where they actually dumped a bunch of water to simulate fuel,” said Laitila. “There is no substitute to seeing where things would actually go in the event that something happens. They have done it well.”

Photo Caption: 
Airman 1st Class Zachary Alcantara, 36th Logistic Readiness Squadron distro operator, radios for help during a fuel spill exercise on Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Nov. 6, 2019. The simulation tested Andersen’s emergency responders on their timeliness and capability in containing a fuel spill.

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