1. Health

Jet Fuel Spills in Hawaii: The Bitter story

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Four families who resided on a military installation in Hawaii are suing the Navy, alleging that drinking water tainted by two separate jet fuel spills caused them to become ill.

The Navy's Red Hill jet fuel storage facility, which has a capacity of 175 million gallons, is to blame. Let's turn the page to 1943, when the Red Hill Gasoline Storage Facility was built, the year that jet fuel spills made national news.

From 1940 to 1943, the facility was built as a wartime undertaking during the Second World War. The gasoline storage facility can contain 250 million gallons of fuel in total. There are 20 steel-lined underground storage tanks that can hold a combined total of 12.5 million gallons of jet fuel.

Two quiet jet fuel spills occurred in Hawaii in May and November of 2021, causing JP-5, the jet fuel propellant, to seep and damage Oahu's water supply.

The fuel line “violently” ruptured after a valve-opening process was “incorrectly conducted,” causing a jet fuel spill in May 2021. Then, on November 20, an overhead pipe valve cracked, allowing about the same amount of jet fuel to leak out and soak for several hours into the groundwater.

No word regarding the leakage came from the Navy until the next two days. The Navy reported there were no traces or indications of any environmental leaks after two days, and the water was safe to drink.

After a week, the Department of Health began to receive several complaints about the jet fuel odour in the water from residents near the naval installation. Every day, hundreds of cases including burns, skin rashes, neurological conditions, and digestive problems were recorded at the emergency room.

The Navy confessed that over 30,000 gallons of fuel were spilled in 2021 as a result of operator error when the impacted people began speaking out. They agreed that there were two leaks at the Red Hill fuel storage facility, one in May 2021 that let 19,000 gallons of gasoline escape, and another in November 2021 that let 12,000 gallons of gasoline into Oahu's main water supply.

Investigations into the jet fuel spills revealed that they were caused by the Navy's inadequate rapid responses to the fuel breaches in 2021 and failed to draw lessons from earlier mishaps. The Department of Health conducted sampling experiments, which revealed that the water source contained 350 times the permitted quantity of petroleum hydrocarbons in drinking water.

To make sure the gasoline was disposed of appropriately, a task group was established. The Navy declared that it will set up 12 new groundwater wells to track the progress of the fuel that had been spilled.

The Navy gave the DOH and EPA the original Red Hill Bulk Fuel Facility Defueling Plan on June 30, 2022. The Navy is currently working to remove all of the fuel from the Red Hill storage tanks, a laborious effort that will run until July 2024. The Navy's cleanup efforts in Hawaii's ocean have already cost $250 million as of January 2022.






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