A task force created after the spill of thousands of gallons of fuel from the Red Hill Fuel Storage Facility in Halawa met for the first time Wednesday in Kakaako. The eight member panel was created by state lawmakers after the Navy announced in January that up to 27,000 gallons of jet fuel had been released from Tank No. 5.
Gary Gill, the state's deputy health director for the environment, said there are many questions about Red Hill fuel contamination the task force needs to be answered before issuing a report to the Legislature in mid-December.
"What we don't have is how far and wide that contamination has spread; in what direction it spread, and at what level of contamination it may be spreading beyond the monitoring wells directly below the tanks," Gill told KITV4.
The Navy has seven groundwater monitoring wells in the vicinity of Red Hill, and is currently digging two more about 500 feet north of the facility. Board of Water Supply Manager and Chief Engineer Ernest Lau said the additional wells are inadequate to monitor the movement of fuel plumes, especially to the south where BWS maintains a reservoir of drinking water. Each tank at Red Hill is 250 feet tall and can hold up to 12.5 million gallons of petroleum products.
"Two monitor wells is a good start, but we don't think it should stop there," said Lau.
During the meeting of the task force, the Navy revealed more than 600 repair points have been located inside Tank No. 5, which was completely emptied of jet fuel in early April. Forty-seven of the repair points were found to be anomalies, and of those, 17 pen-size holes were discovered during vacuum testing.
The Health Department believes all repair points inside Tank No. 5 should be tested, but the Navy has not made a final decision on how to proceed.
"When I inspected personally inside of Tank 5 along with EPA and our staff, there were hundreds of areas in that tank that potentially could be leaks," said Gill. "All of those need to be tested."
One of the Navy's current monitoring wells has shown evidence of contamination from fuel byproducts, but well below Environmental Protection Agency levels that would pose a danger to the public.
"Our drinking water has been safe," said Aaron Poentis of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command. "It's never been close to any action levels or any exceedances of the Safe Drinking Water Act."
Meanwhile, both BWS water sources closest to Red Hill have shown no signs of fuel contamination. The Halawa Shaft is located one mile northeast of the facility, while the agency's Moanalua Wells are found 1-1/2 miles south of the fuel tanks.
Moanalua Valley residents are monitoring the situation carefully and want the Navy, state and county to come up with a firm plan of action.
"Be up front with us, tell us what the risks are and go ahead and just solve the problem," said Steven Onoue, president of the Moanalua Valley Community Association, which represents more than 600 homeowners.
The state Health Department and the Navy are negotiating a consent decree that would determine what must be done to clean up prior fuel spills and how to mitigate the effects of future ones. If an accord cannot be reached by December, Gill said the state and the EPA would likely pursue an administrative order against the Navy to force it into action.
"What we have to do under law is continue through our administrative penalty policy and procedure first before there's any court litigation," he said.