By Ann Wright
As a retired U.S. Army colonel with 29 years of military service, I am very disappointed at the military’s continued lack of transparency on the 2021 jet fuel spills at Red Hill — and now, the lack of sensitivity on the recent spill of 1,300 gallons of a toxic firefighting foam. The AFFF (aqueous film forming foam) apparently billowed up inside an entrance tunnel of the underground jet fuel storage complex, and the foam tide flowed over 100 meters along and into the ground outside of the tunnel and down the hill.
Just as with the Navy initially stating there was no video of the 19,000 gallons of jet fuel spewing jet-fuel spill.
There are many photos of the release of AFFF/PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as “forever for 34 hours in November 2021 and then having to admit there was a video when it was released by a whistleblower, causing public outrage, the holding back from the public of the video of the 1,300 gallons of AFFF is going to cause even more outrage. And it’s a reminder that the Navy has still not officially released any video of the 2021 spewing chemicals”), and billowing snowlike mounds of the foam, in other facilities where it has occurred.
The AFFF foam that was released in a U.S. Air Force hanger on Okinawa several years ago filled the hanger and the attached parking area to a depth of several feet. Here, the 1,300 gallons of AFFF foamed inside the entrance hall of the Red Hill tunnel and then flowed downhill on the ground outside the tunnel at least 200 feet. Drone video showed that the Navy put blue tarps over the foam. The tarps apparently were useful for two reasons. First the tarps hid the billowing foam that was probably at least 1 to 2 feet deep. Second, the tarps attempted to contain the foam from flowing further downhill with Oahu’s rains.
Community outrage concerning the recent AFFF/PFAS spill of dangerous firefighting foam near the Red Hill jet fuel tanks erupted at two meetings on Dec. 12. At the monthly meeting of the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, in a remarkable show of disrespect for the community, representatives from the state Department of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency abruptly left the meeting after their presentations and just before scheduled community testimony.
A few hours later, community outrage flowed at the town hall meeting held at Moanalua Middle School, hosted by state legislators. Navy officials left the stage as questions were yelled from the audience.
Those with questions for the panel included family members who have severe medical complications from jet-fuel poisoning. Coming in for specific ire was the military for taking more than a year to set up a clinic for military families for support for those suffering from toxic exposure — and it is still not ready for patients.
It’s time for the Navy to come clean on the AFFF spill at Red Hill.
Ann Wright is a retired U.S. Army colonel, former U.S. diplomat, and a member of Veterans for Peace and of Oahu Water Protectors.