In a scathing report, the U.S.Department of Transportation's Office of Pipeline Safety is requiring the owner of the Sand Island Tank Facility to inspect all 16 of their massive fuel tanks.
The feds cited owner Aircraft Services International Group for faulty inspections, poor record keeping and corrosion on the tanks in its investigation into the 42,000 gallon spill near the Keehi Small Boat Harbor in December.
"The likelihood that the conditions could worsen or develop on other areas of the facility and impact its serviceability, it appears that the continued operation of the affected pipeline facility without corrective measures would posed a pipeline integrity risk to public safety, property or the environment," the report said.
The spill came within 100 yards of the harbor and was due to a hole at the bottom of the tank in area that had been previously patched up. In its order, the Office of Pipeline Safety said that there were a number of "undersized patches" that were used to repair the tank floor but that the owner had no records of those repairs.
The feds also said the owner "believed the tank had a double floor when there was only a single floor," which is much less effective in preventing spills.
"The maintenance records indicates a high level of neglect," said Denise Antolini, an environmental expert and University of Hawaii law professor. "This report raises many, many red flags. This is a serious report that has many implications."
The Sand Island Tank Facility stores jet fuel for the major airlines that land in Honolulu. All sixteen of its tanks contain 44 million gallons, which is about four times the amount of petroleum spilled by the Exxon Valdez in 1989.
Aircraft Services did not return calls. The company has 30 days to contest the findings or to come up with a plan to inspect the tanks. Experts said that will be a monumental task.
"They have to drain each tank and as you can see, 26,000 barrels (or 2.8 million gallons) in each tank, where's that fuel going to go," asked environmental activist Carroll Cox, who filed a complaint with the Office of Pipeline Safety over the spill.
Environmentalists said it's the right thing to do.
"They're so close to the ocean, they're in urban Honolulu, the risks to our environment are unacceptable," said Marti Townsend, director of the Sierra Club's Hawaii Chapter.