The Navy is investigating another fuel release at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii — just months after a fuel leak from the same storage facility contaminated thousands of military families’ drinking water.
According to the service, the release Friday consisted of no more than 30 gallons of a mixture of water and fuel near tanks 13 and 14 at the storage facility.
“Dewatering work was being conducted at the time,” the Navy said in a news release Friday. “This periodic maintenance removes water from fuel tanks holding fuel. All dewatering maintenance has stopped.”
“The Red Hill well remains secured, and the Navy continues to monitor drinking water,” the Navy said in the release.
The Hawaii Department of Health and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency were alerted to the fuel/water release, the Navy said.
The incident comes after Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered the closure of the Red Hill facility last month. The Navy and Defense Logistics Agency leadership have until the end of May to craft a solution for “safe and expeditious defueling” of Red Hill.
The fuel leak from last year, which officials claimed originated from the Red Hill fuel storage facility, impacted approximately 9,000 Army, Navy and Air Force families. Thousands of those affected sought treatment for nausea, headaches, rashes and other conditions as well.
After residents reported that their water smelled like fuel, the Red Hill well was shut down on Nov. 28. Even so, service officials claimed the water was safe to drink and use. But testing days later on Dec. 3 revealed that petroleum products were present in the water.
On March 18, the Hawaii Department of Health declared that the water in the final four of all 19 zones within the Navy water system was safe for drinking, bathing, cooking and cleaning after reviewing the test results from samples taken in those zones. All displaced residents have left their hotels and moved back to their homes
The ruling came after a massive operation to flush the Navy’s water distribution system, including all houses and other buildings.
The 20 Red Hill tanks, which were constructed in 1943, are situated on the side of a mountain above an important aquifer.