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Fired Navy captain privately raised Red Hill concerns, but had a different story publicly

A fired Navy captain had warned about conditions at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage facility, according to an email obtained by Hawaii News Now.
Published: Apr. 6, 2022 at 3:50 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 7, 2022 at 6:58 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A fired Navy captain had warned about conditions at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage facility, according to an email obtained by Hawaii News Now, but his public statements about the cause of last May’s fuel leak blame something entirely different.

Capt. Albert Hornyak became the commanding officer of Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center last August. Two months later, in a video news release, Hornyak discussed the May 6 release of jet fuel at the facility that was initially reported as more 1,600 gallons.

Months later, that leak is believed to be as much 19,000 gallons of fuel.

“The primary cause of the release was operator error,” said Hornyak, in the military’s video news release. “However, I’d like to note that the system operated as designed to minimize the amount of product release as well as maximize the amount of product that was captured,” he added.

Despite his statements, in an email weeks earlier to the US Pacific Fleet commander, he warned about pressure surges in the pipelines. Hornyak wrote that on Sept. 29, contractors heard a loud noise similar to the one heard during the May 6 incident and immediately shut down operations.

Hornyak wrote the next day “a sagging pressure condition” was present in all three pipelines.

“Based on the May 6th event as well as this most recent event, I believe there are multiple valves in the Red Hill pipeline system are potentially leaking,” he added.

Wayne Tanaka, Sierra Club director, said the letter suggests the occurrences were related to the May 2021 event and that “supposedly has lead to this current crisis.”

Earlier this week, the Navy relieved Hornyak of his duties “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to perform his duties following a series of leadership and oversight failures,” a Navy statement said.

Navy officials clarified early Thursday that their decision to relieve Hornyak was “specifically due to lack of procedural compliance during a recent dewatering event inside of Red Hill and not due to any previous incidents.”

Rear Adm. Kristin Acquavella will temporarily fill in until a permanent replacement is identified, they added.

Critics like the Sierra Club wonder if others will be held accountable.

“The May 2021 leak occurred before Captain Hornyak was in his position,” said Tanaka.

“He obviously hasn’t been the only person in charge of this facility and in fact there are many serious things that happened in the months and years preceeding his leadership,” he added.

The next month after Hornyak wrote his October email, there was a second major leak in late November. Both leaks last year are believed to be the cause of the current contamination.

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