Two Red Hill spills could be linked with one much larger than reported

More than 5-thousand people reported illnesses and 3-thousand families displaced.
Published: Dec. 21, 2021 at 5:15 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 22, 2021 at 6:51 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) It was closing arguments Tuesday at the evidentiary hearing on the state’s emergency order to the Navy to cease operations at the Red Hill bulk storage fuel tanks and drain the fuel.

The Navy says it’s sorry for the November leak that contaminated drinking water which services 93,000 military and civilian residents along its waterline, but it refuses to drain the fuel.

The Department of Health says the Navy’s own estimates are that chronic leaks from the Red Hill fuel tanks are probably over 5,000 gallons of fuel per year and state health experts testified some of the corroding 80-year-old tanks have not been inspected in 20 to 40 years.

“The fuel should not sit on top of our aquifer while the Navy tries to figure out what is going wrong and what it can do to fix it,” said Wade Hargrove, Deputy Attorney General.

More than 5,000 people reported illnesses and 3,000 families have been displaced. An Aliamanu Military Reservation resident testified her 16-month old son got rashes from the water, her family and neighbors suffered stomach aches and her dog was poisoned.

“Seeing him totally deny his water was pretty alarming. After that he was puking a bit. For some time, he was pretty sick,” said Carly Lintner, resident at Aliamanu Military Reservation, who was in tears as she described the situation.

The Navy says it’s cleaned up past spills under regulatory oversite and is working to restore fresh drinking water to thousands of families with industrial filtration systems.

“There is no other emergent need to take any other action or to take another action to protect human health and the environment,” said Craig Jensen, attorney for U.S. Pacific Fleet.

The Navy believes a November 20 spill of 14,000 thousand gallons of fuel and water is likely the source of contamination, but the Sierra Club pointed out, it may be linked to a May 6 spill that could be larger than originally reported.

“We heard from Captain Meyer that maybe there was a release not of 1,600 gallons, but maybe it was a release that was closer to 19,000 gallons. This is the existential threat that we face,” said David Henkins, attorney for Sierra Club.

The Honolulu Board of Water Supply says it’s been ringing the alarm bell for years and that 180 million gallons of fuel should not sit above Oahu’s aquifer.

“We’ve got to take action now. We’ve got to stop that. What did everybody say. The Navy said no it couldn’t ever happen,” said Ella Foley Gannon, attorney for Honolulu Board of Water Supply.

A hearings officer is expected to issue a judgment to the Deputy Director of Health early next week. That will determine if DOH moves forward with its emergency order to the Navy to drain the tanks.

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