The U.S. Navy is planning to shut down a key fuel storage facility at Pearl Harbor after an investigation found that poor management and numerous errors at the facility resulted in a fuel leak into the tap water system that poisoned thousands of people last year.
“The investigation is the first detailed account of how jet fuel from the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, a massive World War II-era military-run tank farm in the hills above Pearl Harbor, leaked into a well that supplied water to housing and offices in and around the sprawling base,” the Associated Press reported. “Some 6,000 people suffered nausea, headaches, rashes and other symptoms.”
Kathleen Ho, deputy director for the state’s Department of Health, said in a statement that the facility needed to be “shut down as quickly as possible” and that the leftist state expects “the Navy will marshal all possible available resources to defuel and decommission the facility.”
“However, with the extensive repairs needed and the Navy’s history of spills from unsafe pipelines, our first priority continues to be ensuring that all defueling activities are performed safely for the sake of the people and environment of Hawaii,” she added.
The investigation found that the mistakes started in May 2021 when an operator caused a pipe to break while it was being moved, resulting in tens of thousands of gallons of oil being spilled.
“The investigation report listed a cascading series of mistakes from May 6, 2021, when operator error caused a pipe to rupture and 21,000 gallons (80,000 liters) of fuel to spill when fuel was being transferred between tanks,” the AP added. “Most of this fuel spilled into a fire suppression line and sat there for six months, causing the line to sag. A cart rammed into this sagging line on Nov. 20, releasing 20,000 gallons (75,700 liters) of fuel.”
“The team incorrectly assumes that all of the fuel has been sopped up,” Adm. Sam Paparo, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said. “Meanwhile, over the course of eight days, that fuel enters into this French drain that is under the concrete and seeps slowly and quietly into the Red Hill well. And that fuel into the Red Hill well is then pumped into the Navy system.”
The Pentagon said that it would be approximately two years before the tanks could be defueled in a safe manner.