Hawaii’s congressional delegation Tuesday urged the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the procedures and practices used by the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Navy in the midst of a leak at the Navy’s Red Hill complex in Honolulu, Hawaii. In a letter, the delegation demanded to know whether a November 29 toxic foam leak of “forever chemicals” at the complex exposed the surrounding community to “enduring threats to their health.”
The Hawaiian congressional delegation consists of senators Mazie Hirona (D-HI) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) as well as representatives Ed Case (D-HI) and Kai Kahele (D-HI). Together, the delegation called upon the GAO, an independent, non-partisan congressional agency, to conduct an investigation into the leak. Specifically, the delegation asked the GAO to conduct an audit to assure Hawaiians that the people, land, water and ocean in the area surrounding Red Hill are protected.
The DOD responded through the Joint Task Force-Red Hill. In its most recent update on December 9, the task force said that they are conducting their own investigation into the surrounding area’s soil and water quality. The task force is also in the process of defueling Red Hill–an effort which was underway before the November 29 leak. The delegation said that the task force should continue to conduct their investigation. The potential GAO investigation “will provide a necessary third-party assessment of their practices,” according to the delegation.
The leak occurred at the Navy’s Red Hill facility on November 29. The leak spilled over 1100 gallons of aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) into the environment, along with other per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The chemicals were housed at the complex to contain possible fuel fires. AFFF and PFAS are among the “forever chemicals” referred to in the delegation’s letter. “Forever chemicals” do not break down in the environment overtime, and “[w]ithout proper care, the legacy of damage of these spills will impact the health and well-being of people for generations and exact a devastating toll on the ecosystem and environment.”
This is not the first time a leak at Red Hill has occurred. In November, more than 100 people joined a lawsuit against the US alleging that the Navy negligently released jet fuel and other toxic substances into the water line in May and November 2021. Approximately 9,715 households were affected by the spills.