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DOH decries ‘egregious’ spill of toxic chemical at Red Hill

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About 1,100 gallons of toxic fire suppressant was spilled at the Navy’s Red Hill fuel facility today, according to Hawaii Department of Health officials, who described the event as “egregious.”

The Aqueous Film Forming Foam is used to suppress fires caused by flammable liquids such as fuel and contain PFAS, so-called “forever chemicals” that are slow to degrade when released into the environment. PFAS may lead to a higher risk of kidney and testicular cancer, increased risk of high blood pressure in pregnant women, among other health problems, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

The release occurred above Adit 6, a passageway at the mauka end of the Red Hill facility, according to DOH, which said it was notified of the leak at about 3 p.m.

“A DOH on-scene coordinator responded and preliminarily reported that the spill was not contained and AFFF has spilled into soil outside of the Red Hill facility and into the facility near Adit 6,” DOH said in a news release.

Efforts are underway to recover the AFFF and no surface water was contaminated. No details were provided about the cause of the release, health officials said.

“This is egregious,” said Kathleen Ho, DOH’s deputy director of environmental health in the news release. “AFFF contains PFAS forever chemicals — groundwater contamination could be devastating to our aquifer. While details are limited at this time, the Joint Task Force and Navy need to be transparent about how this happened. Regulators will hold the Department of Defense accountable and will press the operator to take any and all appropriate corrective action throughout the defueling and decommissioning process.”

DOH officials said the Navy uses AFFF C6 at Red Hill, and that the foam contains per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

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