HONOLULU (AP) — The four members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation said Wednesday they are asking the Department of Defense’s inspector general to investigate whether the Navy properly investigated and notified state authorities about a fuel leak at Pearl Harbor.
They asked the inspector general to examine whether the Navy delayed investigating the matter or notifying state authorities out of concern that doing so would jeopardize an extension for a state permit to operate its Red Hill fuel tanks.
U.S. Sens. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz and U.S. Reps. Ed Case and Kai Kahele issued a joint news release about their request, which they made in a letter to the department’s acting inspector general.
The inspector general’s office didn’t immediately respond to an email requesting comment late Wednesday.
The lawmakers cited “extremely troubling” details in two recent news articles alleging Navy officials had evidence in January 2021 to conclude fuel leaking into Pearl Harbor was coming from an active pipeline connected to Red Hill and not from a historical plume.
Honolulu Civil Beat reported last month that officials waited months to report the leak to the Department of Health “amid concerns it would hamper its ability to secure a state permit.”
“We recognize the strategic importance of Red Hill to our national security and expect that the facility is operated safely and in accordance with all federal and state environmental laws and regulations,” the lawmakers said in their letter.
The Red Hill facility holds 20 underground fuel storage tanks near Pearl Harbor, providing the military with a crucial fuel reserve in the Pacific.
But the tanks, which date to World War II and are each the equivalent of about 25 stories tall, sit above an aquifer that supplies a quarter of the water consumed in urban Honolulu. A 2014 leak from one of the aging tanks generated concerns the facility could contaminate one of Oahu’s most important water sources.