Leak detection at Red Hill dates back to 2003UPDATED 11:12 PM HST Mar 04, 2014Video Transcript
under Red Hill... ...And they came more than a decade before the 27-thousand gallon spill in January. Good evening, I'm Kenny Choi in for Yunji De Nies. I'm Paula Akana, thanks for joining us tonight. KITV4 just obtained a Department of Health letter showing the agency had grave concerns about leak detection monitoring at Red Hill. But instead of using systems considered more reliable, the Navy chose a different path. KITV4's Andrew Pereira has this KITV4 exclusive! Andrew? Paula... sources say the fuel spill in January MAY have been prevented with better monitoring. 20 tanks standing 250 feet tall, each capable of holding 12.5 million gallons of fuel. The Red Hill underground fuel storage facility is a technological marvel, but leaks have been an issue almost since construction ended in 1943. Rock samples taken near the tanks show staining from petroleum products. STEVEN CHANG: "WHEN YOU READ STUFF BACK IN 1947 IT SAYS THERE WAS A THREE GALLON PER MINUTE RELEASE, AND IT REALLY DOESN'T SAY MUCH TO YOU. SOME OF THE LARGER ONES MAYBE 18,000 GALLONS." In October, 2003 the Department of Health's Solid and Hazardous Waste Branch sent THIS letter to the Navy asking for a leak detection system for each of the 20 tanks at Red Hill. The Navy's response came nearly nine months later. STEVEN CHANG: "SPECIFIC WITH RESPECT TO OUR RELEASE DETECTION THEY SAID THAT THEY'RE CURRENTLY WORKING ON REVIEWING TECHNOLOGIES THAT COULD BE EMPLOYED." Unbeknownst to the Department of Health, Red Hill tanks were built with a leak release system in place, called the Telltale System, which consisted of a series of pipes that monitored any leaks on the outside wall of the steel tanks. That system was eventually augmented by the AsterNet system in the early 80s, which was upgraded and refined through the 1990s. The upgraded AsterNet system used a float device, probes and algorithms to more accurately determine how temperature and pressure could impact tank level readings. STEVEN CHANG: "AT THAT POINT IN TIME WE HAD NO KNOWLEDGE OF ANYTHING THEY WERE DOING AND BASED ON THE FEDERAL REGULATIONS THEY WERE DEFERRED FROM HAVING RELEASE DETECTION SYSTEMS. SO IF ANYTHING, THEY WOULD BE DOING SOMETHING ON A VOLUNTARY BASIS." Sometime in the early 2000s sources familiar with Red Hill monitoring tell KITV4 the more intricate AsterNet system was replaced by a Mass Tank Gauging System, which is in use today. The Mass Tank Gauging System uses indirect readings from probes every 9 feet to determine if there's a leak. The Department of Health had no way of knowing which was better.. STEVEN CHANG: "YOU KNOW WE'D HAVE TO LOOK AT THEIR DOCUMENTATION, JUSTIFYING ONE SYSTEM OVER THE OTHER." The Navy's lag in providing information to the state continues to be a sore spot with lawmakers. Sen. Mike Gabbard will lead an informational briefing this Friday about the latest leak from Red Hill tank #5, at least 27,000 gallons of jet fuel detected Jan. 13 that could threaten the Pearl Harbor aquifer that supplies drinking water to Oahu. SEN. MIKE GABBARD: "I'M VERY CONCERNED AND THAT'S WHY AT THE MEETING ON FRIDAY I WANT TO BRING UP THESE ISSUES AND HEAR DIRECTLY FIRST HAND FROM THE NAVY THEIR RESPONSE." Last month the Health Department announced low levels of lead and other chemicals were found in the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam water system. DOH says the chemicals do not represent a health threat. The Navy responded late today to KITV4, saying another leak detection system with networking capabilities replaced the AsterNet system mentioned in our report. Paula?