TIMELINE: A year ago, Red Hill fuel disaster upended the lives of thousands of Hawaii families
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The weekend after Thanksgiving one year ago, families living in and around Pearl Harbor started complaining of fuel smells, a sheen in their tap water, and even yellow ice cubes.
That Monday, the state issued a “do not drink” advisory for the 93,000 users of the Navy’s water line. And nearly five days after the complaints, a lab contracted by HNN found diesel in a sample from the Navy’s water line.
Later that day, the Navy confirmed its tap water was contaminated.
As part of a special series, “Red Hill: One Year Later,” Hawaii News Now is taking an in-depth look at a crisis that sickened and displaced thousands ― and whose social, political and health impacts continue to be felt.
The source of the fuel contamination in the water was the Navy’s underground World War II-era Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, which had a history of leaks and sits 100 feet above Oahu’s aquifer.
Investigations by the U.S. Pacific Fleet pinpointed May and November 2021 spills and a “series of cascading failures.”
As the crisis unfolded in days and weeks after Thanksgiving 2021, military medical teams saw 6,000 people for a slew of illnesses and symptoms ― rashes, headaches, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, and intestinal issues.
Scores were hospitalized and civilian families were impacted too.
Seven public schools couldn’t use the tap water and 4,000 military families were evacuated to hotels.
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The displaced lived in cramped quarters for up to four months ― until the state Health Department declared the water was safe to drink.
In summer 2022, after the military laid out plans to defuel the Red Hill tanks, Hawaii News Now asked Navy officials whether anyone was fired, reassigned disciplined because of the water disaster. “There are a number of people who are no longer in their assigned duties,” said Adm. Sam Paparo, U.S. Pacific Fleet commander.
Red Hill: One Year Later continues all week long with reports on air and online.
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