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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Navy report: Multiple errors poisoned Pearl Harbor’s waters

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii ( Associated Press) — Poor management and human error led to a leak in Pearl Harbor’s tap water last year, poisoning thousands and leaving military families with hotels, a Navy investigation released Thursday revealed. were forced to vacate their homes.

A look at how jet fuel from the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, jet fuel from a massive World War II military-operated tank farm in the hills above Pearl Harbor, leaked into a well that supplied water to residences and offices The first is a detailed description. Inside and around the huge base. About 6,000 people experienced nausea, headaches, rashes and other symptoms.

After months of resistance, the military agreed in April to order the evacuation of tanks from the state of Hawaii and the closure of the Red Hill facility. The Defense Department said in a separate report provided to the state health department on Thursday that December 2024 is the earliest the tanks can safely defuse.

The investigation report listed a wide range of mistakes from May 6, 2021, when operator error caused a pipe to rupture and spill 21,000 gallons (80,000 l) of fuel while the fuel was being transferred between tanks. Much of this fuel spread to the fire suppression line and remained there for six months, causing the line to fail. On 20 November a car collided with this sagging line, releasing 20,000 gallons (75,700 l) of fuel.

The area where the car hit the line should not contain fuel, and so the officers who responded to the spill did not have the right equipment to capture the liquid.

US Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Sam Paparo said at a news conference, “The team wrongly believes that all fuel has been exhausted.” About 5,000 gallons (19,000 litres) were not recovered.

“Meanwhile, over the course of eight days, that fuel enters this French conduit that’s under the concrete and slowly and quietly seeps into the Red Hill well. And pumps that fuel into the Red Hill well then into the naval system It is done,” said Papro.

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Red Hill officials thought the May spill leaked only 1,618 gallons (6,125 litres) and recovered all but 38 gallons (144 litres). He observed that one of the tanks was 20,000 gallons (75,700 litres) smaller, but believed it to have flown through a pipe and did not know that it had flown into a fire suppression line. He did not report the discrepancy to the senior leadership.

When people began to get sick after November, the military moved about 4,000 military families to hotels for months while they waited for their waters to be safe again.

The spill contaminated the Navy’s water system. Fuel not found in Honolulu municipal water supply. But concerns that oil could migrate through the aquifer and get into the city’s wells prompted the Honolulu Water Supply Board in December to shut down a major well that served about 400,000 people. The agency is asking residents to conserve water because of this and the unusually dry weather.

The report noted that the authorities, instead of assuming the worst, erred in assuming the best about what was happening when the spill occurred, and this contributed to ignoring the gravity of the situation.

Paparo said the Navy was trying to move away from it. He called it an ongoing process to “get real with ourselves” and “be honest about our shortcomings.”

He recommended that the Navy review operations at 48 defense fuel storage facilities across the world.

“We cannot assume that Red Hill represents an outlier, and similar problems may exist in other locations,” Paparo wrote in the report.

The Deputy Chief of Naval Operations has assigned the head of US Fleet Forces Command, a four-star admiral, to determine disciplinary measures for those in uniform. Papro said that recommendations regarding civilian employees would be sent to their supervisors.

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The report said the investigation revealed that poor training and supervision, ineffective leadership and an absence of ownership with respect to operational safety also contributed to the incident.

The report said, “The lack of critical thinking, intellectual rigor and self-evaluation by key leaders at crucial moments exemplified a culture of complacency and demonstrated a lack of professionalism, demanded by the high-results nature of fuel operations.” Is.”

In particular, the investigation highlighted a February 2021 decision by the commanding officer of the Fleet Logistics Center Pearl Harbor to remove uniformed military oversight from day-to-day operations at Red Hill. This significantly increased the risk of fuel handling operations, the report said.

It also noted that key leaders in the scene of the November 2021 spill failed to exercise a sense of urgency, critical thinking, strong backup and timely and effective communication demanded “from the gravity of the situation”.

US Representative Kaylee Kahle said the Navy has repeatedly stated that Red Hill was an important part of US national defense, yet it was left without proper monitoring for decades. He said it shows lack of leadership, investment and gross negligence.

“The Navy report said the fuel leak at Red Hill in May and November 2021 could have been prevented. This is shocking and deeply worrying,” Kahele, a Democrat from Hawaii, said in a statement.

David Henkin, an attorney for EarthJustice who is filing a legal challenge against the facility, said the Navy has failed to learn from its mistakes.

“Instead of acting swiftly to remove the more than 100 million gallons of toxic fuel that remains on Oahu’s sole source aquifer, the Navy proposes to take another two and a half years to defuel the Red Hill tanks — by the end of 2024. , ” They said. “It’s completely unacceptable.”

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