Navy Says Operator Error Caused Hawaii Pipeline Leak

HONOLULU (AP) — The U.S. Navy said Tuesday that operator error caused it to release 1,618 gallons (6,125 liters) of jet fuel from a pipeline at its Red Hill fuel tank storage facility in Hawaii, but that the leak didn't come from any of the massive tanks themselves.

Navy Region Hawaii said in a news release that the Navy recovered all but 38 gallons (144 liters) of fuel from the leak on May 6.

The fuel tank facility holds 20 underground fuel storage tanks dating to World War II in the hills above Pearl Harbor. The tanks, which are each the equivalent of about 25 stories tall, sit above an aquifer that supplies a quarter of the water consumed in urban Honolulu.

More than 27,000 gallons (102,200 liters) leaked from one of the tanks in 2014, generating concerns that the facility could contaminate a crucial water source. News of latest leak renewed community concerns about the reliability of the fuel tanks.

The Navy said an investigation conducted by the Naval Petroleum Office of the Naval Supply Systems Command determined that an operator failed to follow specific procedures to close valves in the fuel lines during fuel transfer operations.

The Navy said this caused a pressure surge within the system, which blew out a part and caused fuel to be released from the pipeline.

There was no damage to the Red Hill storage tanks and all of the tanks passed subsequent tank tightness tests, the Navy said.

The Navy said it has added additional safeguard measures, including requiring more system operators in the control room when fuel is transferred.