Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii (AP) — The U.S. military on Monday released one gallon (3.79 million liters) of fuel from three pipelines as part of the first steps to close a World War II-era fuel depot. It said it was ready to drain the fuel. The facility that leaked oil into Pearl Harbor’s tap water last year.
The pipeline extends approximately 3 miles (4.83 kilometers) from the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in the mountains overlooking Pearl Harbor to the military base.
Starting Tuesday, the military will spend six days draining the pipelines one by one. Fuel is expected to travel through the pipes for a total of 12 hours over 6 days.
Fuel has been in the pipes since the military decommissioned Red Hill last year after oil leaked into a drinking water well that serves 93,000 people at and around Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
Nearly 6,000 people, mostly military personnel and their families, sought medical care. For rashes, sores, nausea, and other illnesses after drinking or bathing in contaminated water.
Shortly after, the State Department of Health ordered the military to drain the fuel from Red Hill and shut down the facility. The military says he has 104 million gallons left on the tank itself. We aim to remove this fuel by July 2024, after making the necessary repairs so that the tank can be safely drained.
Rear Adm. John Wade, commander of Joint Task Force Red Hill, said the state Department of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had reviewed and approved the military’s plan to drain the pipeline. A third-party contractor also checked the plans, he said.
The most dangerous aspect of draining the pipeline is the potential for fuel to spill and enter the aquifer, Wade told reporters at a press conference.
“So all our planning and rehearsal efforts have been focused on mitigating the potential for a spill,” he said.
The Red Hill facility sits just 30 meters above one of Honolulu’s most important drinking water aquifers.
Hawaii officials are concerned that last year’s spill polluted the aquifer, and that future spills will pollute the aquifer. Aquifers typically supply more than 20% of her water consumed in Honolulu.
Wade said representatives from the Department of Health and the EPA stand by while the military drains the pipeline.
Task force members were trained individually and in groups on how to respond to fuel spills during pipeline drainage, he said.
Navy investigation finds series of mistakes In the span of six months, it caused last year’s spill.
On May 6, 2021, it was discovered that a pipe burst due to operator error while transferring fuel between tanks. This spilled 21,000 gallons (80,000 liters) of fuel. Most of it ran into the fire line, where he was left for six months, causing the line to sag.
Then, on November 20, the cart ran into the slack line, releasing 20,000 gallons (75,700 liters) of fuel. The team believed they had recovered all of this fuel, but missed about 5,000 gallons (19,000 liters). The fuel they missed ran into a French drain, and from there into a drinking water well.
Fuel from the three pipelines will be sent to on-ground storage tanks and fuel barges to supply the base’s Air Force jets and Navy ships, officials said.