Navy Suspends Military Tank Farm After Hawaii Aquifer Contamination

HONOLULU (AP) — The U.S. Navy announced Monday that it has suspended use of World War II-era fuel tank farm above a Hawaii aquifer that supplies nearly 20% of Honolulu’s drinking water.

After problems at the base and nearby, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro announced the news during a briefing to reporters in Pearl Harbor.

Nearly 1000 military families have reported that the tap water they use smells of fuel. Some have even complained about physical symptoms like cramps or vomiting.

Last week, a water sample was returned that showed petroleum in it. This well is close to the underground fuel tank, which has been the source for multiple fuel leakages throughout the years.

These tanks provide fuel for many U.S. military planes and ships that patrol the Pacific Ocean.

The announcement came after Hawaii’s governor and congressional delegation called on the Navy to suspend operations at the tank farm fuel tank farm that sits above an aquifer that supplies water to urban Honolulu.

Vice commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet Rear Admiral Blake Converse stated that use of the tank farms was suspended Nov. 27, but officials didn’t explain why they waited until Monday.

Last week, the Navy reported that a sample of water taken from one its wells revealed petroleum. This well is close to the underground fuel tank, which has been the source for multiple fuel leakages in the past.

The Navy’s water system serves about 93,000 people. Nearly 1,000 households reported that the tap water smelled like fuel, or they suffered from stomach cramps or vomiting.

According to the Navy, it will flush the water system with clean water in order to remove any residual petroleum products. It could take as long as 10 days for the process to be completed, including testing to verify that water meets Environmental Protection Agency drinking requirements.

Also, the Navy pledged that it would investigate the source of the contamination and fix the issue.

The tap water problems have afflicted one of the military’s most important bases, home to submarines, ships and the commander of U.S. forces in the Indo-Pacific region. They also threaten to jeopardize one of Honolulu’s most important aquifers and water sources.

During World War II, the Roosevelt administration was concerned about the vulnerability of above-the-ground fuel tanks to attacks — so the Navy built the tank farm named the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility.

Twenty steel-lined underground fuel tanks can be stored in the facility. Together they can hold up to 250,000,000 gallons (946 Million liters). Concrete is used to encase the tanks and they are stored in cavities on a volcano ridge close to Honolulu. The pipelines from the tanks go 2.5 miles (4 km) through a tunnel that fuels piers in Pearl Harbor.

U.S. Air Force and Army Marines and Navy use the fuel from the tanks to power their ships and planes. Red Hill, according to the Navy, is essential for maritime security, stability in region, and prosperity of Indo-Asia-Pacific.

Since 2006, more than $200million has been spent by the Department of Defense on environmental testing and updating the facility.


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