The U.S. Military Poisons the People of Hawaiʻi

Perhaps the barbarians laying siege to cities of the Roman Empire were the first to figure out that the way to bring the Romans to their knees (or onto their butts on their fancy latrines) was to throw shit in their aqueducts. (Now Graeber and Wengrow might say that life might have been OK under barbarian rule, but the shit-chuckers were kind of cold, I’d say.)

The U.S. military has been very effective in destroying water infrastructure when they want to kill the enemy. It bombed dams in Korea during the Korean War to drown the people who lived in villages downstream.

During the first Gulf War, the U.S. military bombed dams in Iraq, because why should those enemy women and children have access to clean water? Those babies are going to grow up into terrorists anyway.

Then it practiced this stuff on Kahoʻolawe, and they broke the water table. WTF?

Destroying your enemies’ access to water has been a pretty effective means of waging war. But usually, you want your military to do this to those who you deem your enemy, the slant-eyes or the towelheads. You don’t want to do this to your own soldiers, or seamen, or their families, or their pets.

The U.S. Navy in Hawaiʻi seems to have gotten their flag signals crossed somehow. So, they have poisoned the underground water resources of ʻOahu with jet fuel or gasoline – initially sickening the people living in military housing around Joint Naval Station Pearl Harbor/Hickam Air Force Base.


The Navy’s Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility is a complex of 20 underground tanks constructed in the 1940s. Located in close proximity to Joint Naval Station Pearl Harbor/Hickam Air Force Base, each of the 20 tanks holds 12.5 million gallons of fuel. These underground tanks are located only 100 feet above the Southern Oʻahu Basal Aquifer water table that supplies essentially all of what most people think of as Honolulu, where 400,000 people live.

When constructed, the steel lining of the tanks was 0.25 inches thick. Over the decades, the lining has become as thin as 0.079 inches in some areas, less than one-third of the thickness when they were manufactured. Over their lifetime, over 200,000 gallons of fuel have leaked from the tanks. The largest prior leak occurred in 2014 when 27,000 gallons leaked from a single tank.

On Monday, November 22, the Navy reported that 14,000 gallons of fuel and water had spilled over the prior weekend but that all of the fuel had been captured. Residents of the area called 911 and the fire department responded. Over the subsequent week, residents began to report developing headaches, vomiting, abdominal pain, and skin rashes. They noted that the water from their tap began to smell like fuel. Elementary schools in the area taped off their sinks or sent their students home.

The affected areas were those served by the Red Hill shaft, a well-controlled by the Navy 3000 feet downhill from the fuel storage facility. The Navy’s water system serves 93,000 people, including military personnel, dependents, civilians, and area public schools. The Navy shut down the shaft on Sunday, November 28. The civilian-run Honolulu Board of Water Supply shut down its nearby Halawa well, a source of 20% of Honolulu’s water, on Friday, December 3. On Sunday, December 5, it was reported that the Navy turned over four months of water quality test results from July through October to the Hawaii Department of Health. These results showed petroleum hydrocarbons in the water exceeding toxic levels as early as July.


The US Military does not have the public’s trust. They have been caught in malicious lies that put their own people at risk. Our aquifers are connected—who is to say that the rest of our waters are not contaminated? It is only a matter of time before the rest of us are vomiting and putting our pets to sleep.

With orders from the governor to stop using the tanks, the Navy just says, “we can’t” as if they haven’t already dumped tens of thousands of gallons of petroleum into our water systems. They say they need that fuel to continue their fueling of fleets of ships and jets. They need to continue to rain hellfire on the global south from their convenient launching pad, which is what they consider Hawaiʻi to be. We won’t stand for it anymore.

It’s not just the jet fuel in our life blood water supply. It’s not just the bombing in sacred lands. It’s also the use of our home as a tool for their wars of aggression.

To the US military: Take your jet fuel. Take your bombs. Your fleets of destroyers, drones and submarines. Take your bases and secret underground intelligence tunnels. Pack it all up and leave this place. You were never wanted here.


Yoko Liriano is a long-time solidarity activist for the Philippines.

Seiji Yamada, a native of Hiroshima, is a family physician.

Both are members of the Hawaiʻi Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (HICHRP). @hichrp |