Almost two years after the Navy’s massive jet fuel spill from the 80-year-old Red Hill underground fuel tank facility and one month before the October 16, 2023 defueling begins of the 104 million gallons remaining in 14 of the 20 massive fuel tanks, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro has finally held 14 Navy officials “accountable” for the Red Hill disaster, but he did not fire, suspend, dock the pay or reduce the rank of any of the 14 for the toxic contamination of the drinking water of 93,000 and the pollution in the aquifer for the city of Honolulu!!!! Instead, the 14 have received reprimand through Letters of Censure and Letters of Instruction (whatever that is)—and revocation of end of Red Hill tour medals.
The May and November 2021 fuel leaks of 19,000 gallons of fuel at the 80-year-old Red Hill fuel storage facility into the drinking water aquifer of Honolulu gave toxic exposure to over 93,000 persons. Many are suffering from toxic poisoning that will have lifelong effects. 27,000 gallons of fuel had “leaked” in January 2014. Some families who have lived in the 19 residential areas served by the Red Hill well report they have had health conditions for many years prior to the November 2021 spill that went directly into the Red Hill well. They feel that these health issues may be attributable to the leak in 2014, nine years before.
According to the March 5, 2023 Honolulu Star Advertiser article, titled “Military spending act stirs defueling concerns,” the DNAA REQUIRES, before defueling of the Red Hill jet fuel tanks, a certification from DOD that closing Red Hill will not affect Indo-Pacific military operations. At this point, 4 months after the passage of the NDAA and until the March 5 Star Advertiser article, despite intense public interest in the defueling and closing of the Red Hill facilities, neither Senator Hirono, Senator Brian Schatz nor Representative Case mentioned the certification requirement in their press releases about the $1 billion for the defueling and closure of Red Hill and $800 million for other military infrastructure upgrades in Hawaii passed in the NDAA for 2023.
As a retired U.S. Army colonel with 29 years of military service, I am very disappointed at the military’s continued lack of transparency on the 2021 jet fuel spills at Red Hill — and now, the lack of sensitivity on the recent spill of 1,300 gallons of a toxic firefighting foam. The AFFF (aqueous film forming foam) apparently billowed up inside an entrance tunnel of the underground jet fuel storage complex, and the foam tide flowed over 100 meters along and into the ground outside of the tunnel and down the hill. Just as with the Navy initially stating there was no video of the 19,000 gallons of jet fuel spewing jet-fuel spill. There are many photos of the release of AFFF/PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as “forever for 34 hours in November 2021 and then having to admit there was a video when it was released by a whistleblower, causing public outrage, the holding back from the public of the video of the 1,300 gallons of AFFF is going to cause even more outrage.
One can hardly finish an article about Hawaii’s Red Hill jet fuel disaster before another dangerous incident happens. While I was completing an article concerning the first anniversary of the November 2021 massive jet fuel leak of over 19,000 gallons of jet fuel into the drinking water well that served 93,000 military and civilian families, on November 29, 2022, at least 1,300 gallons of the extremely toxic fire suppressant concentrate known as Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) leaked out of an “air release valve” installed by the contractor Kinetix onto the tunnel floor of the Red Hill Underground Jet Fuel Storage Tanks complex entrance and flowed 40 feet out of the tunnel into the soil. Kinetix workers reportedly were performing maintenance on the system when the leak occurred.
Puʻuloa, Hawaiʻi – On the anniversary of the 19,000 gallon fuel spill that led to the poisoning of Oʻahu's sole source aquifer and thousands of families, water protectors from across the island presented an "eviction notice" to Navy leaders for numerous Navy and Department of Defense actions that have continually threatened and harmed the lands, waters, and people of of Hawaiʻi - including the Navy’s ongoing refusal to properly address the existential threat posed by the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility. "We aren't dumb. We aren't sheep. We know when we are just being fed lines by military officials in the hopes of keeping us quiet. We let them do that to us for too long, and look at what we've got. Those days are over, maybe forever," stated Kainoa Azama, of the Oʻahu Water Protectors.
Many military and civilian families living on military bases around Pearl Harbor, Hawai’i have been outspoken that they felt ill before the November 2021 massive Red Hill jet fuel leak…and they were right! Recently released data shows that their water was contaminated by jet fuel in the summer of 2021 and they were feeling effects of poisoning long before November 2021. Interviews with ten families published in an extensive December 21, 2021 Washington Post article “Military families say they were ill months before jet-fuel leak brought scrutiny to Pearl Harbor’s tap water,” record that family members shared physicians’ notes, emails and visual records documenting symptoms that, in some cases, dated back to late spring, 2021.
Puʻuloa, Oʻahu – Environmental groups along with the Honolulu Board of Water Supply today commemorated the anniversary of a reported whistleblower revelation that Navy officials failed to disclose a months-long active fuel leak in Puʻuloa (Pearl Harbor). Standing outside of the Pearl Harbor National Memorial Visitor Center, dressed in formal funeral attire and wearing black armbands, participants reflected on what they described as “one year of ʻimplausible deniability’” surrounding the Red Hill water crisis, and the impacts that a lack of transparency and truth has had on the people and island of Oʻahu, as well as on the legacies of Puʻuloa and Kapūkakī. The group also unveiled petitions with hundreds of “wet” signatures from local residents demanding that the Navy provide medical support and alternative water sources for those still reporting health and water contamination issues; invest additional resources to ensure the defueling of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility within a matter of months, not years; and engage with the public to respond to community questions and concerns on a monthly basis.
The U.S. military’s massive public relations machine produces news releases, articles, films and spends millions of dollars on civilian media contractors to create content for recruiting and selling national security priorities to the American public. Yet, with all the media assets available to the Department of Defense and each of the military services, the actions of senior civilian and military leadership make it impossible for one of the world’s biggest media conglomerates to dig itself out of the hellhole of the Navy’s Red Hill jet fuel contamination of the drinking water of 93,000 in Hawai’i and lack of medical resources for those poisoned by jet fuel. For example, on September 29, 2022, the Secretary of Defense, retired 4-star Army general, Lloyd Austin, arrived on the island of O’ahu to take a tour of the 80-year-old underground jet fuel tanks that in late November 2021 spewed for 35 hours 19,000 gallons of jet fuel down a tunnel hallway, under a raised door and directly into the Red Hill drinking water well and into a part of the aquifer of Honolulu.
Honolulu - Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will be in Hawaii through the week and plans to meet Rear Admiral John Wade, the commander in charge of defueling the Red Hill underground fuel tanks. So far, there are no scheduled plans to meet with families. Families who were sickened by the spill are demanding immediate help. The protest over Red Hill goes beyond defueling the tanks. Ten months after the spills, families who were sickened after drinking fuel-contaminated water say their physical and neurological illnesses aren’t going away. “Real people are experiencing real symptoms,” said Army Major Amanda Feindt during a protest last week in the nation’s capital. Ariana Wyatt fears for her daughter, Indy. “I would love to tell you sheʻs doing a lot better, but thatʻs just not the truth,” said Wyatt.
Kauai, Hawaii - Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff arrived on Kauai for a vacation away from bustle of Washington. As their motorcade pulled up near the Kalihiwai Ridge home where the second couple are staying, they were met with people holding 'Shut Down Red Hill' signs. Some members of the Oahu Water Protectors made the trip to Kauai to meet the motorcade. While they said 'aloha' to welcome the Vice President on her trip, they also wanted to use the opportunity to put the issue on her radar. "To stand here and know that she's just 100 feet away from us I think it's important because we can't fly to DC but DC is here, so it's an opportunity for us to send a message to DC ," says Healani Sonoda-Pale.
A dramatic video hidden for 6 months by the Navy of the 34 hours showing 20,000 gallons of jet fuel spraying into a Red Hill tunnel and disappearing into a floor drain that sent thousands of gallons into the water supply of 93,000 residents surfaced on July 5 after an undisclosed Navy employee made public a video that the Navy continued to maintain did not exist. What little good will for the Navy that was left in the civilian and military community of Honolulu has disappeared as the Navy continues to lie about the Red Hill jet fuel contamination of the drinking water of 93,000.
Ten days ago, late on a Friday afternoon, May 27, 2022, the contractor’s assessment of the repairs needed in the US Navy’s Red Hill Jet Fuel Storage Area was delivered to the Hawai’i Department of Health. The redacted report made available to the public shed light on how badly managed and maintained the massive 80-year-old, 20 storage tank, 250 million gallon facility located a mere 100 feet above Honolulu’s water supply, had become. In fact, according to the report, the November 2021 jet fuel leak that went into Pearl Harbor’s residential Red Hill drinking water well was just one of many dangerous time bombs in the facility waiting to happen. The $1.45 million Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger, Inc. contracted report underscores that there were many “near misses” with potentially even greater disasters than the May and November 2021 leaks/spills from the large jet fuel tank system.
It took the Department of Defense (DOD) 3 years to begin work on shutting down the tanks after the decision was made. The decision to close and remove the original 33 underground fuel storage tanks and construct six new above-ground tanks was made in 2018 but work did not begin to close down the facility until July 2021. Each of the six new, above ground tanks will be able to contain 5.2 million gallons of JP-5 carrier jet fuel or F-76 marine diesel fuel in 64-foot-tall, 140-foot-wide tanks constructed of welded steel columns with supported fixed cone roofs. Approximately 75 million gallons are stored at Manchester Fuel Depot now. At that rate, it would take eighteen+ years to defuel and close Red Hill, assuming it holds 180 million gallons of fuel.
On March 7, 2022 Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered the defueling and closure of the 80-year-old leaking 250 million gallon jet fuel tanks at Red Hill on the island of O’ahu, Hawai’i. The order came 95 days after a catastrophic 19,000-gallon leak of jet fuel into one of the drinking water wells operated by the U.S. Navy. The drinking water of over 93,000 persons was contaminated, including the water of many military and civilian families living on military bases. Hundreds went to emergency rooms for treatment of rashes, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea and seizures. The military placed thousands of military families in hotels Waikiki resorts for over 3 months while civilians were left to find their own accommodations.