Read the full article by Christina Jedra (Honolulu Civil Beat)
“Approximately 1,100 gallons of toxic fire-suppressing foam leaked at the Red Hill fuel facility on Tuesday, the military and Hawaii health department confirmed on Tuesday evening.
Aqueous film forming foam, also known as AFFF, was released on the upper end of the facility into the aboveground soil and into the underground facility, the health department said in a news release. AFFF is used to suppress fuel fires and contains chemicals known as PFAS that are linked to cancer and other health problems. PFAS chemicals are notorious environmental contaminants because they are ‘forever chemicals‘ that don’t break down in the environment.
According to the health department, the spill is not expected to have an impact on the water supply located 100 feet below the Red Hill tanks.
‘There is no evidence that drinking water was impacted,’ DOH spokeswoman Kaitlin Arita-Chang said. ‘Drinking water remains safe to drink.’
On Tuesday evening, Navy Region Hawaii confirmed the foam release and said firefighting units responded shortly after 1 p.m. During a media briefing, Navy officials said the leak occurred during a maintenance activity run by engineers and contractors that work with the Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command.
The aim of the exercise was to ensure the system works, according to Navy Adm. John Wade, but something went terribly wrong. During the incident, the entire contents of the AFFF storage tank – 1,100 gallons – were drained, Navy officials said. They said the foam was released via a system pipeline, but they did not specify whether it came out of a broken pipe or an open valve. The cause of the leak is under investigation, they said.
The leak was ‘contained’ by 2 p.m., the Navy said.
‘Whatever happened, it is stopped,’ Wade said.
Crews are now working to clean up the mess, the Navy and health department said.
The leak occurred as the Navy is in the process of defueling and decommissioning the World War II-era Red Hill fuel facility, although Navy officials emphasized the AFFF leak is unrelated to defueling efforts.
The Department of Defense ordered the facility to be shut down after thousands of gallons of fuel leaked into the water supply under the facility last year. Hundreds of families were sickened and are still experiencing health problems today, more than a year after the crisis began.
The tainted Red Hill shaft has been closed for the past year as a result of that contamination and the Navy has been working to remediate it. It is not currently being used for drinking water.
On Tuesday, the Navy said it doesn’t expect the shaft to be further impacted by the firefighting foam because the well is a mile away.
‘Given the size of the release and the distance from the nearest active water well, our initial assessment is that it is unlikely to affect the drinking water or the aquifer,’ the Navy said in its news release.
‘There are currently no indications of any water contamination. We have also increased soil and water monitoring in the affected area.’
Kathleen Ho, Hawaii’s deputy director of environmental health, called the leak ‘egregious’ and said the military needs to explain itself.
‘AFFF contains PFAS forever chemicals — groundwater contamination could be devastating to our aquifer,’ she said in a statement. ‘While details are limited at this time, the Joint Task Force and Navy need to be transparent about how this happened. Regulators will hold the Department of Defense accountable and will press the operator to take any and all appropriate corrective action throughout the defueling and decommissioning process.’
Wade agreed that the situation is ‘serious.’
‘After talking with Ms. Ho, I don’t disagree with what she said,’ he said.” …