EXCLUSIVE: 3,000 gallons of oil released near Keehi Boat Harbor

Published: Sep. 11, 2014 at 8:58 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 12, 2014 at 9:30 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The State Department of Health is investigating the underground release of thousands of gallons of oil on Sand Island. It was found in a construction trench on the street that leads to the Keehi Boat Harbor. The trench is being dug for Honolulu Marine LLC.

"They're installing a water trench, a water line. And in that process they came across oil," said Liz Galvez, on-scene coordinator for the Office of Hazard Evaluation & Emergency Response.

An industrial and hazardous waste management company pumped out and disposed of more than 3,000 gallons of petroleum.

"It's limited to the last 60 feet of the trench," Galvez said.

The trench is between two large fuel storage sites. Hawaii Independent Energy owns one side. Hawaii Fueling Facilities Corporation owns the other. The state said neither the operators nor the companies digging the trench reported the oil release. That could lead to a $10,000 a day fine.

"We don't want to end up in situations where there's molasses in the harbor, where there is fuel leaking into the water table, and it's been going on for months. That's why fines are so high," said Rep. Chris Lee, chairman of the House Energy & Environmental Protection Committee.

The Health Department took samples to determine whether the oil is diesel, jet fuel or another product. The state is working with the operators and the companies digging the trench to investigate the release. Galvez said so far it hasn't gotten into the harbor.

"There's always that possibility," she said. "We're doing everything that we can to prevent the oil from reaching into the water."

Galvez said the companies involved will have to come up with a plan to remove the rest of the oil. The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard are also working on the investigation.

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