A release of water and fuel into a tunnel of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility that began on Saturday has stopped, the U.S. Navy said on Monday afternoon.

The Navy said it was able to stop the mixture from spilling out of a fire suppression system drain line in the lower tunnel at about 2 a.m. on Monday.

“By mid-afternoon Sunday, the rate of release from the leak had reduced considerably,” the Navy said in a press release.

Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility pump room
The Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility is a vast network of underground tanks, pipelines and pumps. U.S. Navy

Approximately 14,000 gallons of water and fuel was removed from the tunnel and put into an above-ground storage tank, according to the Navy.

The Navy said the drain pipe is not connected to the Red Hill tanks or its “main fuel pipelines,” all of which it said are secure. The incident occurred about a quarter of a mile downhill from the tanks.

“The tunnel capture zone, pumps and drain line are part of the layers of protection at Red Hill to protect the environment,” the Navy said.

“The Navy continues to coordinate with and provide information to Hawaii Department of Health and the EPA. There are no signs or indication of any releases to the environment and the drinking water remains safe. The Navy is investigating the incident.”

The Navy is facing increasing scrutiny for its operations of the World War II-era Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, which is made up of 20 gigantic underground fuel storage tanks and a system of pipelines that deliver fuel to Pearl Harbor and elsewhere. Many island residents want the system, which is corroding and sits above a major Oahu drinking water aquifer, to be shut down and the Navy’s fuel operations to be relocated.

Saturday’s leak occurred as the Navy attempts to secure a Hawaii Department of Health operating permit – an application long opposed by the Sierra Club of Hawaii and the Honolulu Board of Water Supply. A contested case hearings officer in September recommended that Health Director Libby Char grant the permit under certain conditions, but the case may soon be reopened to review new evidence.

Earlier this month, the DOH Environmental Health Administration said a whistleblower had come forward and alleged that Navy officials provided false testimony and withheld information about corrosion at Red Hill.

On Monday afternoon, DOH spokeswoman Janice Okubo said the case has been remanded to the hearing officer to “consider and decide whether the matter should be reopened to take further testimony in the contested case hearing.”

Meanwhile, the Navy was recently fined by DOH for environmental violations at Red Hill, has faced intensifying criticism from the public about its history of leaks, and has been in the hot seat with state and federal elected officials. The legislators have called for investigations into whether officials misled the public earlier this year about the cause of a fuel leak into Pearl Harbor.

Through it all, Navy officials have maintained that they can operate the facility in a way that protects the environment and public health.

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