Navy Investigating Possible Hawaii Fuel Tank Leak
January 19, 2014
Oskar Garcia / Associated Press & KITV 4 News
Navy officials are investigating a possible fuel leak in a tank at an underground facility built in Hawaii in the 1940s. Navy officials said fuel operators found a discrepancy in the tank's levels indicating the tank possibly lost thousands of gallons of fuel. Investigations revealed the aging 250-foot-tall, 100-foot-wide tanks have a history of leaking.
Navy Investigating Possible Hawaii Fuel Tank Leak
Oskar Garcia / Associated Press
HONOLULU ((January 15, 2014) -- Navy officials said Wednesday night they're investigating a possible fuel leak in a tank at an underground facility built in Hawaii in the 1940s.
Navy officials said fuel operators found a discrepancy in the tank's levels on Monday. Manual measurements showed the tank possibly lost fuel, the Navy said.
Navy spokesman Tom Clements said it's not clear whether any aviation fuel was truly lost because measurements would take several days to complete. He said he did not know how much fuel was in the tank, though the 200-foot tall cylinder holds 12.6 million gallons.
When operators found the measurement discrepancy, they began transferring fuel immediately to another tank, a process that could take up to five days, Navy officials said.
The Navy said it informed state and local officials, and nearby wells were closed as a precaution. Local water officials were investigating separately, the Navy said.
The Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility held fuel for American planes in World War II. It has 20 total tanks that have capacity to store a total of 252 million gallons, buried about 100 feet underground. The inland facility is about two miles north of Pearl Harbor, near a state prison and just east of a freeway that connects Honolulu with the suburb of Kaneohe on Oahu's windward coast.
The Navy started building the facility in 1940, less than one year before the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor that propelled the United States into World War II. It was built to protect fuel from being destroyed above ground.
Navy officials said the tank held JP-8 aviation fuel, made of mostly kerosene.
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State Health Records:
Navy’s Fuel Tank No.5
Had Previous Leak Problems
KITV 4 Broadcast Transcript
HONOLULU (January 17, 2014) -- The iconic Aloha Tower would fit easily in one of the Navy’s twenty underground fuel tanks now in place at Red Hill. Many of us drive on the freeway in the area every day not realizing what's down below.
On Monday, officials discovered that one of the massive tanks may have leaked out thousands of gallons of jet fuel.
This graphic illustrates the Navy’s fuel storage tanks and why it’s difficult to gauge how much fuel has leaked out.
"That is 250 feet tall and 100 feet in diameter. One inch is thousands of gallons," said Capt. Scott Wheeler of Fleet Logistics Center Pearl Harbor.
The danger is if any of the fuel were to contaminate our drinking water -- something that officials believe has not happened. Thursday they were quick to reassure public safety.
"The water is safe to drink in your community and your water service should not be interrupted," said Ernest Lau, Chief engineer of the Board of Water Supply.
The Board of Water Supply has shut down four wells as a precaution. It normally tests our water for contaminants quarterly. But that could be stepped up to weekly and then monthly just to be safe.
The four wells that have been shut down include Moanalua, which serves much of Honolulu's urban center -- as well as smaller wells in Aiea Gulch and Halawa Heights.
The largest and biggest well is the Halawa shaft near the Halawa prison. That water source is located about a mile west of the fuel tanks.
"That provides seven million gallons a day and that also feeds into what we call the Honolulu load service system which pretty much helps serves a large portion of Honolulu," said Lau.
The Navy also took action following the discovery of the leak Monday.
"We also shut our well down immediately. We have other sources to provide drinking water without concern to the 50,000 Navy residents and folks working on the base," said Capt. Mike Williamson of Naval Facilities Engineering Command at Pearl Harbor.
The Navy wasn’t prepared to address the history of leaks at the facility yesterday. But a check of reports filed with the state health department showed that well number five had previous leaks in March of 1965 and February of 1972. But the information about those incidents is sketchy.
In one report the history of tank No. 5 ends in 1983.
The State Health Department’s Underground Fuel Tank Storage monitoring program was only established in the 1980's. Prior to that, the Navy did not have report any spills to the state.
The Navy says once the fuel tank is emptied, it may take 3-4 weeks to air out the vapors to make it safe for someone to get inside it to inspect it. So, any repairs may take some time. Once the laboratory results are in next week, officials will decide how frequently to test our water wells.
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