Maui News

Excavation starts at site of fuel spill atop Haleakalā

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Contractors use a ground-penetrating radar to identify and map utility pipes and wires under the ground at the Maui Space Surveillance Complex on the island of Maui on Feb. 21, 2023. After mapping utilities under the ground, contractors planned to excavate soil around the generator which was contaminated during a recent fuel spill. PC: US Air Force / Tech. Sgt. Jimmie D. Pike

Excavation for cleanup of the Haleakalā fuel spill site began March 2, 2023, at the Maui Space Surveillance Complex following approval of a work plan. The Pacific Air Forces reports the excavation was delayed due to inclement weather at the summit.

The work plan, approved by the Hawaiʻi Department of Health, Hazard Evaluation and Emergency Response Office, calls for the excavation of up to 200 cubic yards of earth, collecting soil samples and site restoration.

An estimated 700 gallons of diesel fuel spilled at the Maui Space Surveillance Complex Sunday, Jan. 29 into Monday, Jan. 30, 2023 when a severe lightning storm at the summit damaged an emergency generator’s fuel pump, according to the US Space Force update.


The material excavated will be safely stored at the summit pending a remediation plan in phase two of the cleanup, according to a news release. Samples will be sent to a lab for testing, but will be returned to the summit for treatment with the rest of the material in phase two. Soil for the restoration will be gathered nearby, so no material leaves or is introduced at the summit, according to the update

“We recognize the cultural significance and sensitivity of the site and are working closely with native Hawaiian organizations and various governmental agencies as we carefully work through our remediation plan,” said Col. Marc Brock, Space Delta 2 commander.

The Maui-based 15th Space Surveillance Squadron, which operates the MSSC, is part of Space Delta 2, the US Space Force entity responsible for space domain awareness around the globe.


The MSSC is host to small, medium, and large-aperture tracking optics, including the Department of Defense’s largest optical telescope designed for tracking and imaging satellites, with sensors collecting data on near-Earth and deep-space objects. At more than 10,000 feet elevation, the location atop Haleakalā provides some of the best astronomical viewing conditions on Earth, according to the US Space Force.

The phase 1 excavation is being done by US Ecology, a remediation firm with years of specialized experience in fuel spill recovery.


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