Video Footage Exists of Red Hill Fire Suppressant Spill, Navy Says

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Employees work to remove contaminated soil from the spill site in Hawaii.
Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) Pearl Harbor employees work on excavating and removing contaminated soil from the spill site as part of NAVFAC Public Works Department and Joint Task Force-Red Hill’s (JTF-RH) hazard material spill recovery operation at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility (RHBFSF) in Halawa, Hawaii, Dec. 1, 2022. Remediation of the spill site through excavation and removal of contaminated surfaces and material was immediately initiated after an estimated 1,100 gallons of aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) concentrate spilled from the fire suppression system at RHBFSF Adit 6 on Nov. 29, 2022. (Matthew Mackintosh/U.S. Army)

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser had asked a top Navy official during a Wednesday news conference, two days after the spill, whether there was video footage and was told there was none.

A Navy report submitted to state health officials says that 1,300 gallons of toxic fire suppression chemicals spilled earlier this week at the Red Hill fuel facility, an increase from the Navy's initial estimate of 1,100 gallons. Military officials also said Friday that there is video footage of the spill after telling reporters earlier this week that there were no cameras in the vicinity of the release.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser had asked a top Navy official during a Wednesday news conference, two days after the spill, whether there was video footage and was told there was none.

"There is no video camera positioned there to get the spill, and I'm not aware of any video of this incident at all, " said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. John Wade, commander of Joint Task Force-Red Hill.

The Navy said Friday, however, that there were two cameras in the vicinity of the spill near (drainage passage ) Adit 6, only one of which was operational.

Navy spokesperson Lydia Robertson said top Navy officials were not aware of the footage at the time of the news conference and that the Navy was now "correcting the record."

"Within the first 24 hours of the release JTF Red Hill received initial information that Adit 6 did not have closed-circuit cameras, " she said. "Operators of the closed-circuit system later informed JTF Red Hill of the existence of two cameras (one operational ) at Adit 6."

Navy officials declined to release the footage Friday. Robertson said it's "currently under review for future release " but didn't specify a date.

"All questions regarding the content of the video will be answered after the video is cleared for release, " she said.

The Navy also hasn't released footage of the November 2021 fuel leak at Red Hill that contaminated its drinking water system and sickened military families, even though Honolulu Civil Beat obtained the video elsewhere and published it on its website in July.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Navy for all footage from that spill months ago, but the records request has not been fulfilled.

There are 57 closed-circuit cameras that record fuel operations at Red Hill and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. In February, following the November 2021 spill, Hawaii Congressman Kai Kahele said that the Navy had informed him that there was no footage from 2021's fuel spills because cameras had been inoperable since January 2021 after a contractor inadvertently severed a cable that provides power to 44 of the 57 closed-circuit cameras.

In June of this year, the Star-Advertiser asked the Navy whether all of the cameras had since been fixed and was told that they had. However, the Navy now says that only 30 of the 37 cameras positioned at Red Hill work. The Navy said it needed more time Friday to track down information about why those seven cameras aren't working.

Size of spill unclear Following Monday's incident, Navy officials said they believed 1, 100 gallons of a fire suppressant called aqueous film-forming foam, or AFFF, had been released within a Red Hill passageway. Top officials said the AFFF had been contained in a 1, 100-gallon tank that was now completely empty.

But in a report provided to the state Department of Health detailing environmental testing, the Navy said it was 1, 300 gallons.

Robertson said that the 1, 100-gallons figure was "an initial assessment based on information available at the time." It's not clear from where the additional 200 gallons of AFFF would have come.

The Navy says it still doesn't know the cause of the spill.

"The investigation will examine all aspects of the cause of the release as well as the amounts released, based on many factors, " said Robertson. "We will work with the regulators to ensure the site is remediated."

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