The Department of Defense inspector general will investigate the Navy’s Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, the location of a massive fuel leak that contaminated thousands of people’s drinking water.
Hawaii’s congressional delegation requested the inquiry in November to determine whether the Navy had properly investigated recent fuel releases and notified state health officials in a timely manner. They re-upped the request earlier this month following reports of petroleum in tap water in military housing on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
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“We plan to begin this congressionally requested evaluation in December 2021,” the inspector general said in a statement on Monday. “The objective of this evaluation is to determine the extent that Navy officials managed the operation, maintenance, safety, and oversight of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, and protected the environment and drinking water systems, in compliance with Federal and state regulations and DoD policy.”
The issue arose on Nov. 20, when the Navy said there was a mix of fuel and water in a nearby tank farm. However, officials did not believe the fuel leaked into the environment and said the water remained safe to drink.
Days later, trace amounts of oil were found during routine testing of a local well. The Hawaii Department of Health then ordered the U.S. Navy to stop all operations at a Pearl Harbor facility in an emergency order earlier this month.
Navy officials began flushing water lines in several neighborhoods earlier this week, and they are expected to finish and repeat such maneuvers by Jan. 24, according to the Military Times.
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“Recent events have called into question the Navy’s operations of the Red Hill facility and their ability to ensure the safety of water provided to Hawaii’s military families and Oahu residents," the Hawaii congressional delegation said in a joint statement, praising the inspector general for opening the investigation. "It is critical that the military restore safe drinking water immediately. We also need answers."