The US Navy has completed an investigation into a leak from its Red Hill fuel tank storage facility in Hawaii on 6 May 2021 and found that it was caused by operator error.
Red Hill consists of 20 underground fuel storage tanks, dating back to the 1940s, and there have been longstanding concerns about the integrity of the tanks, particularly as they sit above a drinking water acquifer. However, according to a statement released to AP by the US Navy, an investigation by the Naval Petroleum Office of the Naval Supply Systems Command found that the leak of 1,618 gallons (6,125 L) of jet fuel in May came from a pipeline, rather than the tanks. An operator did not follow the correct procedures to close fuel line valves during fuel transfer operations, causing a pressure surge in in the system, which blew out a part and resulted in the fuel release.
In the statement to AP, Navy Region Hawaii said that all by 38 gallons of the spilt fuel had been recovered. The Red Hill storage tanks were undamaged during the incident and all have subsequently passed tank tightness tests.
The Navy has now added additional safeguarding measures to prevent recurrence, such as requiring more system operators in the control room during fuel transfer procedures.