Report: ‘Forever chemicals’ spilled at Red Hill were also released at Kalaeloa Airport

The information was included in a 2020 report by the Army National Guard.
Published: Dec. 8, 2022 at 4:46 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 8, 2022 at 5:44 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As clean-up of a toxic spill at the Red Hill facility continues, Hawaii News Now has learned about releases of the same kind of so-called forever chemicals at another location ― Kalaeloa Airport.

The information was included in a 2020 report by the Army National Guard.

The report said releases of toxic firefighting foam (or AFFF) happened at random locations at the airport.

The foam was stored in a hangar and state firefighters would conduct monthly pump tests.

AFFF is used to fight fuel fires. It contains PFAS forever chemicals that are under increasing scrutiny by regulators, lawmakers and activists.

“They were simply doing what they had always done,” said Pat Elder, of the advocacy group Military Poisons. “Every month, they load up the fire trucks and they spray PFAS to make sure that they work when there’s a real emergency.”

Activists say they’re worried about state firefighters, construction workers and others who may have been exposed to the toxic chemicals that have now been linked to increased risk of cancer.

“Workers should be notified that they’re working with some very, very dangerous material that can have life-long health effects,” said Retired Army Col. Ann Wright.

Wright wants to know what other military, state and commercial properties are using and storing the chemicals.

“We have on this island a huge, huge amount of very, very dangerous product that are at times leaching into the ocean. We hope it’s not leaching in our drinking water,” said Wright.

The Hawaii Fire Fighters Association said state firefighters now only use AFFF for emergencies and not training. Honolulu firefighters don’t use it at all.

“Once it was found out that AFFF had health concerns cancer issues, we were very happy the HFD among other departments pulled the AFFF off of the trucks and no longer exposed our firefighters to AFFF,” said Bobby Lee, president of the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association.

By 2024, the military must phase out PFAS containing foams, which has been its primary firefighting tool since Vietnam.