State health records: Navy’s fuel tank No.5 had previous leak problems

Published On: Jan 17 2014 06:18:00 PM HST

The iconic Aloha Tower would fit easily in one of the Navy’s twenty underground fuel tanks now in place at Red Hill.

Click here to watch Catherine Cruz's story.

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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