On November 20, 2021, there was a jet fuel spill at a storage facility that contaminated the water making it 350 times above the safe drinking level.
Around this time, the state health department first began receiving reports of a “fuel or gasoline-like odor” from the water. After a week, nearly 1,000 military households had complained about their tap water, some even had experienced cramps and vomiting after drinking it.
The Navy initially dismissed those concerns, with the joint base commander telling families that the water was safe to drink.
On November 30, 2021, Health officials said that they would investigate the complaints, and urged those on the base to avoid drinking, cooking with, or using for oral hygiene.
Within days, the health department and Navy said that through a preliminary analysis they had detected petroleum products in the Red Hill water samples.
On December 7, 2021, the Hawaii Department of Health ordered the Navy to suspend operations at the facility and move toward de-fueling its underground storage tanks, as well as take immediate steps to install a drinking water treatment at the Red Hill Shaft and submit a work plan to assess system integrity.
On December 8, 2021, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro said he directed the pause of all operations at the Red Hill Underground Storage Tanks until the investigation of the petroleum leak is completed but did not mention de-fueling the tank, as the order directed.
On December 30, 2021 health officials said that additional samples from the Red Hill contained 350 times more “petroleum hydrocarbons diesel range organics” than deemed safe for drinking water. And the “gasoline range organics” were more than 66 times the safe level.
“We are aiming for a new normal: One where this never happens again,” Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro said in a statement. “The Department is determined and committed to making the necessary changes. We can and will take care of our people, while also preserving and protecting our national security interests in the Pacific and at home.”