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Navy says footage of Red Hill fuel spill unlikely to result in disciplinary action

Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen Hicks tours the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility. (U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Brittany A. Chase/U.S. Department of Defense/TNS)

The Navy said last week that while it will likely look into how video and photographs of a Nov. 20 fuel spill at its Red Hill facility was released to the media this week, there is no formal investigation into the matter and it’s unlikely anyone will face disciplinary action relating to the released footage.

The videos and photos were published by Honolulu Civil Beat last Monday, which cited an unnamed military official as its source. The Navy was swiftly criticized for not publicly disclosing the existence of the footage or releasing it on its own in the months following the fuel spill, which contaminated its drinking water system and sickened families living around Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

The Navy said that it is reviewing accountability actions in response to its investigation into the water contamination and it could not release the video on its own because that could impede its ability to impose disciplinary action against the person who released it.

A Navy official said that information was miscommunicated and that while it is looking at what it refers to as “accountability actions ” in response to the findings of the investigation, which was released on June 30, it’s unlikely that any actions will be taken for the release of the footage.

On Nov. 20, fuel began spewing from an underground pipe in Red Hill after a worker ran into it with a train cart. It took more than 34 hours for the Navy to contain the spill. The fuel flowed down a tunnel and ultimately made its way into the Navy’s Red Hill drinking water well and the faucets of military families.

Earlier this year, Hawaii Congressman Kai Kahele had tried to get footage of the spill, seeking video from the Navy’s closed-circuit camera system. But the Navy said that the majority of its cameras were inoperable, including those that were positioned at the location of the leak.

The footage published by Civil Beat was shot from a personal mobile device.


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