Brochure explains jet-fuel dumping BWI distributing booklet after incident brought complaints

June 30, 1998|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

In response to residents' complaints after a plane dumped jet fuel on a Glen Burnie mother and son while it was making an emergency landing at BWI in January, airport officials are distributing a safety brochure detailing what to do and whom to call if it ever happens again.

Baltimore-Washington International Airport officials are mailing the brochure -- titled "A Public Guide to Jet Fuel" -- to schools, libraries and community associations in Anne Arundel, Howard and Baltimore counties along flight paths to the airport, said Karen Black, a BWI spokeswoman. She said the 8,400 brochures, prepared with help from the Maryland Department of the Environment, should reach communities by next week.

The incident that prompted the brochure occurred Jan. 20, when Tracy Schulden and her son were covered by a mist of jet fuel as they were walking to a Cub Scouts meeting at Arthur Slade Re- gional Catholic School, about a mile from the airport. The mist came from a Germany-bound World Airways jet that was dumping fuel as it was making an emergency landing at BWI because a child on board had suffered a seizure.

Black said the incident "is not something that has happened before."

"It took all of us by surprise," she said. "Since you don't deal with something like this frequently, this would be a handy piece of information to have available with phone numbers and resources, should anything like this occur."

The brochure is especially symbolic to residents who questioned airport officials' handling of the incident.

Schulden said in January that she called the airport but couldn't find out what had happened or what the mist was. An attendant told her "there would be an announcement later on," Schulden said, adding that she was then put on hold and transferred to a voice mail box.

As airport officials investigated the handling of Schulden's call, Theodore E. Mathison, executive director of the state aviation administration, acknowledged that "it was not a very good response."

Schulden could not be reached for comment yesterday.

"It's very responsible for BWI to recognize that this was not their greatest hour in terms of the response," said Republican Del. Michael W. Burns, who represents communities near the airport. The brochure is "a nice gesture, but it's frankly just a gesture. It's still going to be up to BWI to set up a procedure internally to deal with" such situations.

In the January incident, about 100 gallons of fuel were inadvertently dumped on Glen Burnie because a valve did not shut completely after the pilot dumped 13,000 gallons of fuel over the Atlantic Ocean in order to land safely, in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

The brochure explains how the accidental dumping occurred and also talks about what jet fuels are, warns that they can irritate skin and eyes and are harmful if swallowed. It advises to wash skin with mild detergent if it comes in contact with fuel and provides phone numbers for the Maryland Poison Control Center, Maryland Aviation Administration and MDE's Emergency Response Division.

Pub Date: 6/30/98

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