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Navy says 14K gallons of fuel and water leaked from a 'drain line' near the Red Hill facility

(Jan. 26, 2018) A tunnel inside of the Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility. (U.S. Navy Photo/Released)
Shannon Haney/Naval Supply Systems Command Fle
U.S. Navy
(Jan. 26, 2018) A tunnel inside of the Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility. (U.S. Navy Photo/Released)

HONOLULU — The U.S. Navy said Monday it has stopped the spill of a water and fuel mixture from a drain line near an underground fuel storage facility that serves Pearl Harbor.

The Navy said in a statement the liquid flowed from a fire suppression system into a tunnel, but it stopped this at about 2 a.m. The Navy removed 14,000 gallons of the mixture from the tunnel and placed it in an above ground storage tank.

The Navy said there were no signs the fuel had escaped into the environment and drinking water was safe. It's investigating the incident.

The Navy said it initially believed the leak was only water, but fuel was later detected.

Officials said the leak was downhill from the Red Hill fuel facility and not directly connected to the main tanks.

The facility has faced increasing scrutiny in recent years after a series of leaks.

Earlier this month, the four members of Hawaiʻi’s congressional delegation asked the Department of Defense’s inspector general to investigate the Navy's handling of the facility.

In October, the Navy released documents on a 1,600-gallon jet fuel leak from a pipeline in May; the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit against the Department of Health concerning an earlier fuel leak in Pearl Harbor; and the DOH announced more than $300,000 in fines against the Navy for fuel storage violations.

Red Hill's 20 underground fuel storage tanks sit above an aquifer that supplies a quarter of the water consumed in urban Honolulu. A 2014 leak from one of the World War II-era tanks caused concern the facility could contaminate drinking water.

At a Hawaiʻi Department of Health Fuel Tank Advisory Committee meeting in October, the Navy heard some angry public reaction about its continued use of the facility.

Board of Water Supply Manager Ernest Lau also repeatedly warned of the dangers of jet fuel seeping into the island’s aquifer.

More than a dozen others submitted testimony, many of them questioning the Navy’s ability to keep Oʻahu’s water supply safe. Some suggested the facility should be shut down, and a new one built elsewhere.

"We don’t have to sacrifice one for the other. We can do both. We can protect the environment, protect the people of Hawaiʻi, and we can protect our nation and the Department of Defense with our strategic imperatives. And so we can do those things through the Red Hill working initiatives that we are doing. So it’s not a matter of one or the other," Navy Capt. Gordie Meyer, commanding officer of Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command for Hawaiʻi, said at the meeting.

The Navy is currently petitioning the state for a new 5-year permit to operate the facility, which must be granted by the health department.

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