Petroleum leak leads to Pearl Harbor fuel facility shutdown
Following a petroleum leak into Pearl Harbor’s tap water, a massive U.S. Navy fuel tank facility in Hawaii will be shut down. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made the decision after an assessment carried out by the Pentagon.
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The shutdown decision comes amid Hawaii’s Department of Health ordering the Defense Department to drain fuel tanks at the Red Hill bulk storage facility. Red Hill’s tanks were built into the side of the hill during World War II for security against enemy attacks.
The facility leaked contaminants into the Pearl Harbor tap water facility, forcing over 4,000 military households to relocate. Over 6,000 people reported symptoms such as nausea, headaches and rashes. Most of those affected lived in military housing or near the base.
According to Austin, the Defense Department will adopt an alternative secure military fueling system. While speaking with Hawaii’s government leaders on Monday, Austin said that the Department wants to protect the population and safeguard the environment. “This is the right thing to do,” Austin said in a statement. “Centrally-located bulk fuel storage of this magnitude likely made sense in 1943, when Red Hill was built. And Red Hill has served our armed forces well for many decades. But it makes a lot less sense now.”
The Pentagon has committed to establishing a dispersed storage system for fueling military ships and aircraft. Expected to be safer than the current bulk storage, the new storage facilities will be spread out in the Indo-Pacific regions. According to the Pentagon, the decision was informed by an assessment that sought to expand the current fueling system while making it safer.
Senator Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, welcomed the move. “I have said from day one that ensuring the health and safety of the residents of Oahu is my top priority and I share the community’s big sigh of relief with this news,” said Hirono.