Sierra Club stresses purity of Hawaiʻi's water after report on firefighting foam spill
It’s not clear why it took the Navy six months to release an independent report on what led to the spill of toxic firefighting foam concentrate last year. The military held a news conference Friday to discuss the findings and to release a video of the incident.
"This mishap was preventable. I've already said this and it needs to be said again to the people of Hawaiʻi that on behalf of the Department of Defense, I'm truly sorry. But I do want to be very clear, before I go into details, that the AFFF (aqueous film forming foam) release was contained, cleaned up, and long-term environmental remediation and testing is ongoing in full coordination with the Hawaiʻi Department of Health, or the DOH, and the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, in accordance with federal and state law," said Vice Adm. John Wade, who leads the Joint Task Force-Red Hill.
He put the blame on military contractor Kinetix, also known as Media Plumbing and Heating, which held the contract for maintenance of the fire suppression system.
"The proper procedure for the contractor was to disable the pumps so they wouldn't come on when you do the test. The contractor didn't do that. So the contractor unbeknownst to him, sent a signal, that signal then went to the pump, the pump turned on, fluid started moving through the pipe, went into the tunnel, got to the valve, it released because of the improper installation, went into the standpipe and then overflowed," he said.
The Hawaiʻi Health Department is calling for the U.S. Department of Defense to take responsibility for its shortcomings.
The Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi has also taken the military to task over its handling of fuel spills at the Red Hill underground fuel storage facility over several decades.
"Just looking back and seeing how little oversight that they exercised over Kinetix, over the contractor, and contractors, it just leads me to wonder, you know, when is the next shoe gonna drop? Are these things just harbingers of an even greater catastrophe?" Sierra Club Executive Director Wayne Tanaka told The Conversation.
This interview aired on The Conversation on May 8, 2023. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.