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Navy commander relieved of duties due to recent Red Hill leak

Navy Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility
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)

The U.S. Navy has relieved the commanding officer of the Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center for Pearl Harbor in the wake of a fuel leak last week at the Red Hill fuel storage facility.

The Navy said Capt. Albert Lee Hornyak was removed Monday "due to a loss of confidence in his ability to perform his duties following a series of leadership and oversight failures at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility."

"This relief was specifically due to a lack of procedural compliance during a recent dewatering event inside of Red Hill, and not due to any previous incidents," said NAVSUP Director of Corporate Communication Richard Spiegel.

About 30 gallons of a "fuel and water mixture" leaked Friday from a line connected to Tank 15 during maintenance work to remove water from the fuel tank, according to a press release.

Hornyak has not been charged with any crime, nor charged with any alleged misconduct, Spiegel told HPR's The Conversation. He will be moved to a new assignment.

Rear Adm. Kristin Acquavella will be temporarily assigned as commanding officer, the Navy said.

Spiegel said the disciplinary action was specifically related to the leak on Friday. Hornyak began as the commanding officer in August 2021.

The news about Hornyak's firing left the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi with more questions about the status of the many Red Hill investigations now underway.

"It's curious that this current reassignment is because of the spill Friday, just why it would have taken place so quickly," said Sierra Club Executive Director Wayne Tanaka. "There are a number of people that have been in charge of this facility over the years, including back in May when now they're saying up to 19,000 gallons leaked."

Hornyak was also the commanding officer in November 2021 when fuel contaminated one of the Navy's drinking wells, forcing thousands of military residents out of their homes and into hotels to access clean drinking water.

The Navy has not said exactly how the petroleum got in the water. Officials are investigating a theory that jet fuel spilled from a ruptured pipe in May and somehow entered a fire suppression system drain pipe. They suspect fuel then leaked from the second pipe on Nov. 20, sending it into the drinking water well.

The Navy has suspended use of the affected well and spent several months flushing clean water through its pipes, and the pipes of individual homes.

Health officials declared the tap water safe to drink in all residential areas served by the Navy’s water system in March.

The Department of Defense said it would shut down the nearly 80-year-old fuel storage facility amid an outcry from Hawaiʻi residents and military families.

Prior to the November fuel leak, Hornyak spoke to HPR's The Conversation about the May 2021 fuel leak.

Navy Capts. Gordie Meyer and Bert Hornyak - Oct. 27, 2021
The Conversation

The interview with NAVSUP Director of Corporate Communication Richard Spiegel aired on The Conversation on April 5, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Sophia McCullough is HPR's digital news producer. Contact her at news@hawaiipublicradio.org.
Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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