Minnesota Halts Jet Fuel Leaks, Spills at Twin Cities Airport

St. PAUL, Minnesota, March 18, 2005 (ENS) - Violations related to aircraft fuel leaks at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport that fouled the Minnesota River have cost the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) and two jet fuel service organizations more than half a million dollars.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) said Wednesday that it has ordered the Metropolitan Airports Commission, Minneapolis Fuel Committee (MFC) and Aircraft Service International Inc. (ASII) to pay civil penalties and complete environmental projects at a total cost of $540,000.

The MAC owns all land and facilities at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and is responsible for those portions which are not leased to any tenants, including the Lindbergh and Humphrey terminals where the violations were discovered.

The Minneapolis Fuel Committee is a consortium of airlines that operate at the Lindbergh Terminal. The MFC has leased the Lindbergh Terminal aircraft fueling operations - including the tank farm, hydrant system, oil/water separators, and the vehicle maintenance facility from the Commission.

The MFC contracts with Aircraft Service International Inc. to operate the fuel tanks, fuel pipeline system, oil/water separators, the vehicle maintenance facility, and into-plane fueling at the Lindbergh Terminal. The MFC does not operate at the Humphrey Terminal. The MAC hires ASII to perform into-plane fueling there.


Storm sewer discharge point at the Minnesota River. Floating brown material is jet fuel mousse, an emulsified mixture of jet fuel and water. It was formed as fuel moved through the storm sewer before being discharged to the Minnesota River. A sample of jet fuel in the river was a fingerprint match to jet fuel in the fuel hydrant system at the airport. (Photo courtesy MPCA)
One agreement addresses violations at the Lindbergh Terminal and requires the MAC, MFC and ASII to pay $41,666 each and conduct an estimated $370,000 in supplemental environmental projects at the terminal.

A second agreement with ASII addresses mismanagement of wastes from the Humphrey Terminal fuel pipeline system and requires a payment of $45,000.

"These agreements mean the Minnesota River will be better protected through a comprehensive approach to site management," said MPCA Commissioner Sheryl Corrigan.

"Elements of this approach include: early warning systems for potential leaks, a more coordinated spill and response plan for the airport site, continued recovery of fuel through cleanups, proper management of waste fuel and better methods to prevent stormwater pollution," Corrigan said.

Problems at the Lindbergh Terminal were discharges of jet fuel from the storm sewer into the Minnesota River, failure to properly report and respond to jet fuel releases and failure to prevent leaks.

The agreement also covers improper management of wastes from the fuel pipeline system, and improper discharge of waste jet fuel into the storm and sanitary sewer systems at the Lindbergh Terminal.


Jets lined up at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (Photo courtesy NRAIR)
In addition to paying the penalty, the Metropolitan Airports Commission will replace parts of the jet fuel pipeline system serving Concourse D and Concourse E at the Lindbergh Terminal, decreasing the risk of additional leaks.

The Metropolitan Airports Commission will monitor the ground water quality at the airport and replace manual valves at the storm water ponds with remotely operated gates.

Aircraft Service International will provide and store additional spill response equipment.

All the parties will clean up areas with identified leaks, including the large aboveground storage tanks located on Post Road and parts of the fuel pipeline system.

In February 2003, state MPCA inspectors, while investigating petroleum fumes in the Bishop Whipple Federal Building, discovered a significant leak from the fuel pipeline system at Concourse A, which released jet fuel to the sanitary sewer. During the investigation, a second leak was found at Concourse D, which the MPCA determined was entering the stormwater system and producing oily sheens in the Minnesota River.

Based on its investigation, the MPCA concluded that the leaks went undetected at the airport until the MPCA's February 2003 inspection because the parties were not in compliance with monitoring requirements established under the airport's permit governing the underground piping system.


Jet fuel mousse on Minnesota River shown past a yellow oil spill containment boom installed by a MAC contractor. March 7, 2003 (Photo courtesy MPCA)
About the same times as state investigators were looking into the source of airport fuel releases, a citizen complained, writing, “I’ve been paddling below the airport on the Minnesota River for 30 years – in all months of the year. But yesterday, 3/1/03, the jet fuel (?) being discharged into the river was the worst I can remember. It was coming from the newly finished water treatment/runoff tunnels into the river. The smell was incredible and the gas slick extended to the canoe landing opposite the Ft. Snelling State Park gate house.”

After document review, the MPCA determined that there were additional unreported spills and illegal discharges of waste fuel/water mixtures into the sanitary and stormwater systems, as well as a failure to properly respond to these spills and discharges at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

The Metropolitan Airports Commission notified the state agency about additional violations at the Humphrey Terminal that occurred between August 2001 and October 2003 including the improper discharge of waste from the fuel pipeline system.

In November 2004, the Metropolitan Airports Commission entered into a stipulation agreement with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency that resolved violations related to deicing chemicals and water contaminated with petroleum draining off the airport's property and into the Minnesota River, Snelling Lake and Mother Lake.

MAC paid a $34,538 penalty and was required to partially fund an environmental study of the Lower Minnesota River at a cost of $34,538.