Fuel tank tests back assessments, says Navy
The Navy has provided federal and state regulators with the results of testing at its Red Hill fuel facility near Pearl Harbor that was conducted to assess corrosion at 18 underground fuel tanks that sit just 100 feet above a major aquifer that supplies drinking water to urban Honolulu.
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The Navy has provided federal and state regulators with the results of testing at its Red Hill fuel facility near Pearl Harbor that was conducted to assess corrosion at 18 underground fuel tanks that sit just 100 feet above a major aquifer that supplies drinking water
to urban Honolulu.
The results, which consist largely of raw data that has not been analyzed in a final report, were turned over to the state Department of Health following the urging of the state Attorney General’s Office.
The Navy, in a statement released Monday, said the preliminary assessment
validates the Navy’s earlier scans to assess the condition of tank liners and show areas in need of repair. The Navy also criticized earlier “non-Navy reports” that it said offered “premature
and incorrect analysis” of thinning tank walls “based on subjective observations and imprecise measurements.”
Officials with the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, which is responsible for safeguarding Oahu’s drinking water, raised alarms in September that samples taken from one of the tanks indicated that the levels
of corrosion were worse than anticipated by Navy officials.
Regulators, lawmakers and environmental advocates have been concerned about the safety of the tanks since 27,000 gallons of fuel leaked from one of the tanks in 2014. Subsequent news reports indicated that there had likely been dozens of historic leaks at the facility, which was built in the early 1940s, raising alarms that leaked fuel could contaminate
Oahu’s drinking water.
Each of the aging tanks
can hold about 12.5 million gallons of fuel.
The corrosion testing was conducted as part of an agreement entered into by the Navy with the state Health Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency following the 2014 fuel release to improve tank safety and assess whether the facility should be relocated. A final report from the Navy is expected by July.
Officials with the state Health Department and Board of Water Supply said it was too early to comment on the preliminary reports.
“DOH and our corrosion consultant are currently
reviewing the information (we just received) to develop our own assessment of the laboratory data,” Health Department spokeswoman Janice Okubo said by email. “We will need some time to do this. It’s important that DOH conduct our own assessment as we await the Navy’s complete analysis and evaluation in mid-2019.”
In a letter dated Jan. 25, Deputy Attorney General Wade Hargrove told the Navy that the regulatory agreement and state law required officials to turn over the information to the state Health Department, which regulates underground storage tanks.
While the test data would be finalized as part of a final report, Hargrove wrote that “there is simply no reason for this information not
to be shared immediately with DOH.”
“DOH’s responsibility pursuant to (state statute), to regulate (underground storage tank) systems, and in particular, those which have a history of releases, necessitates immediate and unfettered access to all information related to tank
integrity,” wrote Hargrove, adding that the information was vital to the department’s ability to conduct
its own independent analysis of corrosion and metal fatigue at the facility.
Part of the data was
provided to the Health Department by Feb. 15, as requested by the Attorney General’s Office. Additional data was provided to the health officials late Monday after the Health Department put out a press release indicating that the Navy had yet to turn over part of the information and the media began making inquiries.
Mark Manfredi, Navy Region Hawaii’s Red Hill program director, said the Navy received the report in December from a Louisville, Ky., lab. He said the report was not a “deliverable” of the regulatory agreement, so there was no prescribed due date.
“We informed our regulators that we had received the report and that we were going to carefully review the information and data to ensure there were no inconsistencies in the data so that we could provide the report with any required
explanation,” Manfredi said by email in response to a question about the delay.
As part of the testing, the Navy cut 10 12-square-inch steel samples from the lining of one of its fuel tanks and sent them to a lab for corrosion testing. The lab data includes measurements of the thickness of the samples and depths of corrosion, along with other information.