A major spill of jet fuel in 2014 should have shut down this aging, leaking, storage complex, says Ann Wright.
The North Korean missile scare in Hawaii a year ago was alarming. But that fear has abated. Once again the greatest perceived threat to the island of Oahu comes from our own U.S. military.
A massive complex of 20 U.S. military storage tanks is buried in a bluff called Red Hill that overlooks Honolulu’s primary drinking water supply, 100 feet below.
The walls on the 75-year-old jet fuel tanks are now so thin that the edge of a dime is thicker. Each of the underground tanks holds 12.5 million gallons of jet fuel; 225,000,000 gallons in total.
In 2014, 27,000 gallons of jet fuel leaked through a weak spot on a tank that had been repaired with a welded patch. The welding gave way and the fuel entered the the water supply.
An Ohau beach.
Drinking water is currently safe to drink, but traces of petroleum chemicals are being detected in the groundwater near the tanks.
Leaks have been going on for years. Studies have documented them since 1947. The continued corrosion of the tank liners constantly risks a catastrophic fuel release.
Concerned citizens on the island have for decades been trying to get the U.S. Navy to remove the tanks. The military’s position is that the fuel tanks are of strategic importance to U.S. national security and are being maintained as well as 75-year old tanks can be.
The military is a formidable political opponent here.
Military expenditures in Hawaii—direct and indirect combined— generate $14.7 billion into Hawaii’s economy, creating more than 102,000 jobs. Military procurement contracts amount to about $2.3 billion annually, making it a prime source of contracting opportunities for hundreds of Hawaii’s small businesses, including significant military construction projects.
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