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Navy: Toxic spill Red Hill fire suppressant impacted soil

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The Navy said today that a spill of up to 1,500 gallons of toxic fire suppressant containing so-called “forever chemicals” at Red Hill on Dec. 7, 2019, did flow outside of the facility and contaminated the soil, requiring the soil to be excavated.

The Navy, which disclosed the spill this week to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said that at the time of the release it was not required to report the incident to regulatory agencies or internally within the U.S. Department of Defense.

The fire suppressant, called Aqueous Film Forming Foam, had not yet been defined as a hazardous substance by the EPA and DOD had not yet implemented reporting requirements, according to a Navy spokesperson.

The Hawaii Department of Health, which regulates the facility along with the EPA, did not respond to questions today from the Star-Advertiser about the spill, including questions about whether there were any reporting requirements at the time and when it was first notified of the release.

The Navy said that the spill occurred near Red Hill’s underground pump house, an area near Makalapa Crater that is makai of Kamehameha Highway near Pearl Harbor. The pumping station, which is located at the end of the Red Hill pipelines, is used to move fuel up to the underground tanks and helps dispense fuel to ships and to nearby Hickam Air Field, according to information from the EPA.

The Navy said that an AFFF tank within the facility had a maximum capacity of 1,500 gallons of AFFF, but that it didn’t know exactly how much of the concentrated formula was in the tank at the time of the spill. To be conservative, the Navy said, it has estimated the size of the release to be about 1,500 gallons.

The AFFF spilled within a building and flowed outside to an area adjacent to the facility, and a military spill response team promptly responded, the Navy said.

The Navy said the release did not impact a drinking water source.

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