Thousands of Gallons of Jet Fuel Seep Into Ground - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

2/7/07-Mount Vernon

Thousands of Gallons of Jet Fuel Seep Into Ground

Dozens of East Texans awake to the smell of fuel seeping out of the ground near a local hospital. Wednesday morning thousands of gallons of jet fuel flowed out of East Texas Medical Center's storage tank in Mount Vernon.   But, hospital officials say it was no accident. 

The storage tank holds jet fuel used for ETMC's air-flight emergencies, but early Wednesday morning, someone knowingly opened two of the tank's valves and hundreds of gallons poured out into the ground.  

"It appears to be deliberate, and we are working again very closely with the local authorities who are conducting an ongoing investigation," says Stephen Pitts, the hospital administrator.

Crews worked to block off the fuel's flow, but could not help the thousands of gallons that already seeped into the ground. Forty-six hundred gallons of jet product flowed downhill into the lawns of nearby homes and then even into the parking lot of a retirement community.

Fortunately, the fuel spill posed no real danger to nearby residents and no one had to be evacuated, but Leta Glass says it's still an inconvenience. She lives right behind the tank.   

"You can smell the gas real strong, of course then they come back and told me that they were going to be digging up my backyard and probably even have to take the fence down, all of that," she says.

ETMC personnel say the valves had no locks and there was no fence around the storage tank, some security precautions they will now be installing at every hospital with a fuel tank.   

"That's what they need to do, it needs to be done...I was surprised that it wasn't locked anyway, I didn't know that they would leave something like that unlocked," Leta says.

ETMC says nothing like this has ever happened at one of their hospitals, but they want to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Officials say the person or persons responsible face felony criminal mischief charges. Other charges may be added depending on the severity of the damage and cleanup.

Tracy Watler/Reporting:

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