Diesel fuel spilled at Space Force telescope site in Hawaii

Feb 1, 2023, 1:42 AM | Updated: 4:06 pm

HONOLULU (AP) — The U.S. Space Force said about 700 gallons (2,650 liters) of diesel spilled at the site of an advanced space telescope on the summit of Haleakala volcano on Maui, the latest fuel spill involving the U.S. military in Hawaii.

A diesel pump for a back-up generator at the Maui Space Surveillance Complex failed to shut off Sunday night, U.S. Space Forces Indo-Pacific said in a news release Tuesday.

Maintenance personnel noticed this and deactivated the transfer pump at 8 a.m. the following day.

Fuel spill experts from the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center will assess the site to begin remediation efforts, the Space Force said.

The agency said it notified the state Department of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Haleakala’s summit area is sacred to many Native Hawaiians.

Trinette Furtado, a cultural practitioner on Maui, said Native Hawaiians go to the summit area to align one’s body and internal compass. Furtado, who is also Native Hawaiian, said they go there to receive mana or power and receive learning from the gods.

Furtado said the spill made her think of how the Navy in 2021 accidentally released jet fuel into a drinking water well near Pearl Harbor and sickened thousands of people on Oahu.

“This continues to highlight for me the disregard that the U.S. military has for this aina,” she said, using the Hawaiian word for land.

She expressed concern for Maui’s water supply, noting most of what goes into the ground makes its way into the aquifer.

State Sen. Lynn DeCoite, a Democrat representing parts of Maui, Molokai and Lanai, said the spill was unacceptable. She said she would contact regulators and the Space Force to ensure their investigation is transparent and that they update the community on their findings.

“Haleakala plays a crucial role in the ecosystem of Maui Island, and any contamination of our water sources and natural resources could have devastating effects,” she said in a statement.

The Maui Space Surveillance Complex hosts the military’s largest optical telescope, designed for tracking satellites.

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