Concrete work begins to repair leak in jet fuel line at airport

MILWAUKEE -- Engineering crews are tearing up one of Mitchell International Airport's taxiways to repair a jet fuel line that leaked 9,000 gallons of jet fuel into a creek near the airport, and while the repairs continue, fuel for the planes continues to be trucked in so flights can take off from the airport.

It takes roughly 12 tankers each day to keep the airports fuel farm filled. That process will continue until the 40-year-old Shell Oil owned fuel pipe can be repaired. "We are going to have to break up the concrete and excavate the existing pipe that's down there right now," Bob Herrera with Shell said.

It has been more than two weeks since 9,000 gallons of jet fuel spilled out of the broken pipe. Tuesday, concrete excavation began which marks the beginning of a potentially lengthy process. Shell officials believe they have tracked the leak to somewhere in a 300-foot section of pipe located underneath an airport taxiway. "We will remove that pipe, and it will go off to a lab for PHMSA (US Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) to review and analyze, and then we will put another pipe down into the hole that meets the approval of PHMSA as well," Herrera said.

The combination of working on airport grounds and working with hazardous materials means there is a lot of federal oversight. Several different plans must be approved by several different regulators, all of which could draw out the repair process. However, even if the project lasts for months, passengers flying in and out of Mitchell International Airport shouldn't feel a difference. "You as a passenger, sitting in an airplane, wouldn't notice whether you're going on one taxiway or another," Mitchell International spokeswoman Pat Rowe said.

The concrete work itself, which began Tuesday, is expected to take roughly four days. However, numerous delays can come up, such as weather playing a factor, and President Obama's arrival in Milwaukee Wednesday may also put a temporary stop to the work.