Environmental Protection Agency orders military to address oil spill at Travis Air Force Base

The Environmental Protection Agency ordered the Air Force Thursday to take stronger measures to address an oil spill at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California.

The discharged fuel has leaked into nearby Union Creek. 

The Air Force had identified the oil spill into Union Creek as early as October 2021. However, the service did not notify the EPA or the federal government’s National Response Center of the leak until Feb. 4, 2022.

Since then, the Air Force has made numerous reports about further spillage, including an August 4, 2022, leak of jet fuel from a pipeline on the base into the creek. 

In December, the San Francisco Bay Water Quality Control Board sent the Air Force a notice of noncompliance over the continuing leaks, and notifications to the National Resource Center about oil spillage have continued into 2023, the EPA said.

The EPA contends that action to identify and address the ultimate source of the fuel discharge has not yet been taken by the Air Force.

“This order is critical for ensuring that the Air Force addresses the oil discharge into Union Creek in a thorough and timely manner, and that no impacts to public health occur,” EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman said.

The order mandates that the Air Force use equipment to limit the oil’s spread in the creek, investigate and mitigate the source of the spill, and enter a unified command structure to stop the fuel discharge.

The unified command structure the Air Force has been ordered to enter includes the EPA, local Solano County officials, the San Francisco Bay authorities and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Office of Spill Prevention and Response.

Travis Air Force Base officials indicated earlier in 2023 that the sheen from the oil spill had not been present in Union Creek since December 2022. In addition, the Air Force put oil spill collection booms into Union Creek so as to collect contaminated material.

The petroleum sheen, they contended, coincided mainly with rain events. The outfall drain used by part of the base also carries runoff from a major local roadway.

As of yet, there have not been issues with wildlife in and around the creek, and it has not impacted drinking water — Union Creek is not used for that purpose, Leslie Pena, the civilian environmental chief at Travis Air Force Base, explained to local Solano County news source the Daily Republic.

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