Crews clean up Pearl Harbor yesterday after a Chevron pipeline leak spilled over 25,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil into the harbor and Waimanu Stream. Photos by Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Chevron Industries today estimated at least 25,200 gallons of fuel oil was lost from a pipeline that broke early yesterday, spilling thousands of gallons of oil into Pearl Harbor.
Chevron doesn't know if all the oil from the 23-mile pipeline at Hawaiian Electric Co.'s Waiau power plant reached Pearl Harbor, where six work crews walked the shoreline as cleanup continued today.
Health Department spokeswoman Ellen Blomquist said the water in Pearl Harbor was expected to be fairly clean in a day or two. But scraping oil muck from rocks and boats will take another two to three weeks.
The USS Arizona Memorial and visitors center, closed at 10 a.m. yesterday, remained closed today because of odors from the spill, said National Park Service Superintendent Kathy Billings.
Oil coats the surface of Pearl Harbor.
The Navy has been using small boats to shuttle the 40 families that live on Ford Island, and only essential Navy personnel have been ordered to report to work on the island.
Dave Young, Chevron Industries spokesman, initially said only 200 barrels or 8,400 gallons of oil were lost.
But Young today said heavy fuel oil continued to percolate from the break, detected at 1:35 a.m. yesterday, until the 8-inch pipeline was fixed around mid-morning yesterday.
Young said 600 barrels, or more than 25,000 gallons, of oil was in the pipeline when the break occurred, but the company doesn't know how much spilled into Waimanu Stream, which feeds into Pearl Harbor.
Young said the company believes that most of the oil accumulated near the pipe break.
Young said he didn't know how old the pipeline is or when it was last tested. Young said Chevron, which was fined last November by the state for accidentally releasing sulfur dioxide fumes from its Campbell Industrial Park refinery, still doesn't know how long it will take to clean up Pearl Harbor. He estimated that cleanup costs will "run in the millions."
Van Leunen said two ships spent last night skimming oil from the harbor and another set of booms was spread in the harbor to prevent the oil from spreading.
Chevron, which has taken full responsibility for the spill, contracted PENCO to assist with yesterday's inshore containment effort and Marine Spill Response Corp. to work with the Clean Islands Council on boom-and-skimming operations.
By late afternoon yesterday, most of the spill was contained in the northern portion of East Loch. Precautions have been taken to protect federal wildlife refuges at Middle Loch and West Loch. Rick Roberts, Chevron Refinery manager, reported that about 12,000 gallons of water-oil mixture had been sucked up by vacuums and delivered to the refinery, where it will be stored in tanks until an analysis is performed. More than 400 civilian and military personnel worked to contain the spill yesterday and more workers were brought in today to begin shoreline cleanup, Young said.
Except for odors, the spill does not present an immediate health threat, said Bruce Anderson of the state Health Department. Navy Cmdr. Mark Claussen said military ship traffic at Pearl Harbor was not affected by the spill.
Cleanup crews work at Waimanu Stream near Hawaiian Electric's Waiau power plant.
Coast Guard Capt. Samuel Burton said the 1994 national prep response drill, which simulated a ruptured line, prepared the response center for this crisis. "We had enough boom-and-skimming capacity," Burton said.
"Two things worked against us," he added. "One was it occurred in the middle of the night and we found oil later on both sides of some booms, and the second thing is this type oil submerges in fresh water."
Officials are concerned that high tide could push the heavy oil toward the wildlife refuges.
"If it does get into the refuge, we're looking at potential loss of eggs because it is the breeding season for some birds," said Jerry Leinecke of the National Wildlife Refuge Complex. "Since the oil sinks in fresh water, it could also affect the food supply of the birds."
The 24.5 acres at Middle Loch's Waiawa unit and 36.5 acres at West Loch's Honouliuli unit have an endangered species population of about 80 to 85 Hawaiian coots, 20 Hawaiian stilts and 10 Hawaiian moorhens, said biologist Mike Silbernagle. The stilts are breeding.
Billings estimated that 1,500 visitors were turned away yesterday from the Arizona Memorial.
Among the disappointed visitors was Doug Bernhardt of Palmyra, N.Y., a Pitney Bowes sales representative who was here for a company convention on Maui and extended his stay so his niece and two children could see the sights. "I've seen it before, but my niece has never seen it," he said. "We come from upstate New York and it'll probably be the one and only time she'll be in Hawaii."
Chief ranger Randy Wester said visitors generally have been "pretty understanding."
Wester described the odor as "pretty nasty" in the morning but said it dissipated somewhat later in the day as the winds picked up.
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Pearl Harbor Oil Spill Graphic