On Wednesday February 2nd, 2022 the U.S Department of Justice filed an appeal in federal court contesting the state of Hawaii’s emergency order instructing the U.S Navy to drain its underground fuel storage facility known as “Red Hill” on Oahu. Just 24 hours prior the Department of Defense announced that they would appeal the emergency order, despite the order being made nearly a month before on December 6, 2021. Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks said the appeal would “afford us time to make evidence based and transparent decisions.” The drainage of the leaking fuel storage tanks has now been pushed back to an undetermined time because of the delay this appeal caused in enacting the State’s emergency shutdown order.
Red Hill Fuel Storage facility embedded into the Koolau Range
Construction of the Red Hill storage facility goes as far back as 1940 with its completion coming 3 years later in 1943. The facility consists of 20 steel lined tanks buried into a volcanic mountain ridge with each holding about 12.5 million gallons of fuel and a total fuel storage capacity of about 250 million gallons. From these tanks extend long metal pipes that stretch about 2.5 miles down a tunnel into Pearl Harbor (originally called Wai Momi “pearl waters” due to the pearl oysters that once thrived there) where the fuel is used for battleships, cruisers, carriers, submarines, and more. Only 100 feet below the underground fuel storage facility is the Koolau aquifer in the Koolau Basalt, which is one of the two principal volcanic rock aquifers on Oahu and the primary water supply on the island for hundreds of thousands of residents.
For years locals have been warning that these now very corroding and decaying tanks are now leaking into the aquifer which has poisoned not only the aquifer, but all of the water lines that draw from it. On January 13, 2014 about 27,000 gallons of jet fuel leaked from one of the tanks after which the tank was drained and samples were collected from existing monitoring wells. The samples showed that the leak caused a spike in hydrocarbon levels within the surrounding soil and groundwater. On May 6/7th of 2021 one of the pipelines released what the Navy initially said was 1,618 gallons of fuel due to an “operator error”. During a hearing in early December of 2021, the Navy said something more like 19,000 gallons of fuel leaked. They maintained however that this spill did not contaminate any drinking water. On November 20/21 of 2021 the Navy reported a 14,000 gallon spill of fuel and water mixture from a fire suppression drain line in the facility. Once again the Navy maintained that the drinking water was safe and there were no signs the fuel entered the groundwater.
Inside view of the construction of one of the tanks
All these various leak events lead to November 28 of 2021 when both military resident families as well as civilian neighborhoods such as the Kapalena Beach Homes community in Iroquois Point report that their water smells like gas and that their water is causing them to get sick and cause a plethora of strange ailments. The Navy at first denies that the water has been poisoned for either military families or civilian families, but within days after the 28th begins relocating military families and providing them with bottled water while still denying that civilian water lines have been poisoned.
U.S soldiers handing out bottled water to military families at the Manana housing community Dec 14, 2021
The U.S Military’s occupation of Hawaii has led to the poisoning of a natural water aquifer that is the primary water source for the residents of Oahu, but this is not the first time, nor the only way, in which the U.S Military is destroying water around the world. With the recent war in Ukraine, as many before me have already pointed out, the crimes of the U.S Military industrial complex and their partners have been glossed over by mainstream news. The regular crimes against humanity happening in Palestine, Yemen, Syria, and yes, even Hawaii, have been minimized so as to amplify the War fervor around Ukraine and to promote further dangerous military provocation between the West and Russia. The destruction of drinkable water worldwide is a monstrous crime that the U.S military has committed not only at “home” in Hawaii, but also in areas of the world where they bomb and destroy with near impunity.
For example in Yemen, where what the U.N refers to as “the greatest humanitarian disaster in the world” is being carried out by Saudi Arabia armed and enabled by American weapons and support, the water is also being destroyed. While the past 7 years of relentless bombings, massacres, and blockades on Yemen are not the sole factors for the aridification of the area, they are important contributors and key reasons as to why Yemen is slowly losing its water. The bombings of prisons, school buses, open markets and more by the Saudi Coalition Forces has led to general insecurity in Yemen and the blockade imposed by the coalition that is enabled by The United States has caused food, water, and fuel to skyrocket furthering this insecurity. The unequal water distribution and further aridification of Yemen will disproportionately affect the poor and the small rural farmers, which is significant given that more than half of Yemen’s workforce is employed in agriculture. Because of the relentless bombing campaign by the Saudis and the Americans, water insecurity has even caused endless outbreaks of diseases like dengue and cholera.
Bomb that killed 40 Yemeni children on a school bus, made in the U.S
If the U.S military and its private military contracting companies stopped providing arms and logistics to the Saudi coalition the blockade and bombings that are destroying Yemen’s water would be ended quickly. The U.S is no fool to its complicity in the destruction of Yemen’s water. In a leaked cable published by Wikileaks, U.S Ambassador to Yemen from 2007 to 2010 Stephen Seche made clear the dire situation regarding Yemen’s Water caused by illegal drilling operations that had now depleted 14 of Yemen’s 16 Aquifers.
Leaked Cable from Ambassador Stephen Seche
Syria is another prime example of a country that the U.S Military has turned uninhabitable in some areas, and furthered the depletion of drinkable water. Syria, which has 40% less water than it did a decade ago, has had its water destroyed due to the long dirty war waged by the U.S funding militant radicals to undermine the government of Bashar al-Assad. “(Syria’s) Systems were damaged by violence, proper maintenance couldn’t be performed, and in some cases, utilities lost between 30% to 40% of the technical staff and engineers needed to keep systems functioning. Many left the country, while others retired without being able to coach and transfer knowledge to a younger generation.” That is just one example of how the war in Syria funded by western governments destroyed the infrastructure allowing for reliable access to safe water. Before the war began after 2010, 92 percent of people even in rural communities of Syria had safe, reliable access to water. “Today, the situation is starkly different: only 50% of water and sanitation systems function properly across Syria.”
Ancient Syrian city of Aleppo, before and after the U.S funded dirty war
The U.S Military is one of if not the primary destroyer of drinkable water around the world. Its history of destroying water not only in the three places I’ve mentioned, but also importantly repeatedly against Native Americans, shows the subjugation and ultimate destruction of water as a resource as a primary function of it. The occupation of Hawaii, the attempted jihadist coup d’état in Syria, and the holocaust of Yemen as a whole all have at least one thing in common. Their water is being destroyed by the U.S Military. In a time where billions are spent to continue a war the U.S helped to cause, let us meditate on the crime against humanity that is the destruction of water worldwide by the U.S Military and act in solidarity with those who have been affected by this crime.
Jacan Stone is a writer from Oxnard, California who writes on American foreign policy, American politics, and International Relations. Any questions about Jacan's writings or other concerns, Jacan can be reached at this email at firstname.lastname@example.org