WACO – U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff of the Western District of Texas announced today that defense contractor Maytag Aircraft Corporation (“Maytag”) has agreed to pay $1,901,200.96 to resolve allegations the company negligently caused a jet fuel spill at Fort Hood’s Robert Gray Army Airfield Bulk Storage and Hydrant Facility (“RGAAF”) and made false statements to federal investigators to avoid contractual liability for the cleanup costs.
Defense Logistics Agency (“DLA”) Energy contracted with Maytag to provide services to operate and maintain the government aviation and ground fuel facilities at Fort Hood, including RGAAF. The United States alleged that on January 30, 2014, Maytag employees negligently failed to close a fuel separator valve during operation of the RGAAF fuel system. The open valve and pressure in the system caused fuel to overflow the capacity of the underground waste fuel tank, spew out of the ground, and migrate into the nearby creek. Maytag’s contract with the United States required it to ensure that the fuel valves were secured when not in use.
As a result of the spill, DLA Energy undertook emergency spill response actions in 2014 and continued to engage in environmental remediation efforts through 2020 due to the location and nature of the cleanup needed. The United States contended that Maytag was liable for the costs of such spill response and remediation under its contract with DLA Energy, which required reimbursement of damages. Those damages included the cost of containment and clean up, property damage, and lost fuel resulting from Maytag’s negligence.
Following the spill, DLA Energy and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service investigated the cause of the incident. The United States alleged that, in connection with those investigations, Maytag employees made false statements to the government to avoid contractual liability for the cost of remediation. For example, Maytag employees falsely told investigators that that the valve was closed and that there was a lock on the valve prior to the spill. The United States contended that these statements violated the “reverse false claims” provision of the False Claims Act, which imposes civil liability on those who act improperly to evade an obligation to pay money to the government.
“The United States expects contractors that operate on military bases to be good stewards of federal lands and federal property,” said U.S. Attorney Hoff. “We will hold these contractors responsible for actions that cause environmental harm and negatively affect the health and safety of uniformed service members, civilian employees, and the community.”
“The Defense Logistics Agency values our relationships with industry partners,” said DLA spokesman Patrick Mackin. “We are pleased that we could resolve this long-standing claim and relieve the American taxpayer of the financial burdens caused by the fuel spill and clean-up.”
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jacquelyn Christilles and Thomas Parnham represented the United States in this matter.
The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.
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