Officials from the Hawaiian state and the U.S. Navy acknowledged the leak on Tuesday at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Honolulu, which necessitated cleanup measures and increased soil and water monitoring.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as “forever chemicals” due to their propensity to linger in both the human body and the environment, have been linked to a number of health issues. Although there are growing calls to outlaw their usage, it is nevertheless common to find them in cookware, food packaging, water-resistant clothes, and furniture in addition to some firefighting foams.
Approximately 1,100 gallons of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), which is used to put out fuel fires, leaked at the underground facility, but according to a Navy statement, “our initial assessment is that it is unlikely to affect the drinking water or the aquifer gave the size of the release and the distance from the nearest active water well.”
The plant is already well-known across the country after a fuel leak in 2021 that sickened hundreds of people and damaged drinking water, leading U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to decide that it needed to be refueled and permanently shut down.
The Joint Task Force-Red Hill, which the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) established to defuel the complex, is aware of the event, despite the Navy’s statement on Tuesday that “the AFFF release is not related to the ongoing refueling activity.”
Honolulu Civil Beat reports: Officials from the Navy told the reporters during a briefing that the leak happened during maintenance work carried out by engineers and contractors employed by the Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command.
According to Navy Adm. John Wade, the exercise was intended to make sure the system functions, but something went tragically wrong. According to Navy officials, the full 1,100-gallon capacity of the AFFF storage tank was drained during the event. They said that a system pipeline was used to discharge the foam, but they did not say whether it did so through a damaged pipe or an open valve. They stated that they were looking into the leak’s origin.
By 2:00 pm, the leak was “contained,” according to the Navy.
Wade answered, “Whatever happened, it has stopped.
A senior official at the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) said in a statement on Tuesday that the department is looking into the matter and that there are worries about further water contamination.
Kathleen Ho, DOH’s deputy director of environmental health, called this behavior “egregious.” “Groundwater contamination might have disastrous effects on our aquifer because AFFF contains PFAS everlasting chemicals.”
He continued, “While specifics are currently limited, the Joint Task Force and Navy need to be open about how this occurred. Throughout the refueling and decommissioning process, regulators will keep the Department of Defense responsible and pressure the operator to take any necessary corrective action.
In an interview with Ms. Ho, Wade remarked, “After talking with Ms. Ho, I don’t disagree with what she said.” Wade also acknowledged that the situation is “serious.”
The site added that “the firefighting system at the Red Hill complex has been problematic for years and was even recognized as risky earlier this year”
The spill was referred to as “one more example of the Navy’s negligence” by Ann Wright, an Army veteran and former U.S. diplomat who co-authored the book Dissent: Voices of Conscience and wrote about Red Hill for Common Dreams earlier this year.