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Phase 2 excavation contract awarded, remediation continues at Haleakalā fuel spill site

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Public meeting on Haleakalā fuel spill at the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College. (4.26.23) PC: Pacific Air Forces

A contract for Phase 2 excavation work has been awarded as remediation efforts continue at Haleakalā. 

Officials with the Space Surveillance Squadron hosted a community forum this week to provide an update on the status of efforts at the Maui Space Surveillance Complex where a lightning strike and equipment malfunction resulted in the release of 700 gallons of fuel  at the facility in January. 

The next phase of contract work was awarded to GSI Pacific, a native Hawaiian-owned company based in Honolulu.

Soil samples will be collected at depths of 40, 80 and 100 feet to better understand the depth of contamination and guide the phase 3 remediation plans.


Lt. Col. Phillip Wagenbach, 15th Space Surveillance Squadron commander who led the meeting said, “We needed to be better, and we weren’t. We will determine how we can be better to prevent a re-occurrence of this type of accident.”

The forum drew concerned community members, who posed questions regarding steps already taken and what work remains.

Wagenbach re-emphasized that the Air Force remains fully committed to clean up and recovery efforts at the Maui Space Surveillance Complex.

“Phase 2 data will provide a more comprehensive understanding of the underlying geology, as well as the extent of contamination, and will help the team determine what is feasible and practicable for the site for the phase 3, which includes implementation of the remediation plan,” said Wagenbach.


Remediation techniques being considered include using microbes that would break down the fuel, soil vapor extraction or further excavation.

“We’re going to be very deliberate, we’re going to be very thoughtful and mindful how we proceed, and do it in a way that is not going to send the situation in a worse direction than it already is,” he said.

“As we continue with the efforts, we will continue to hold these meetings because we want to ensure we take into consideration the community’s desires, and earn your trust,” Wagenbach said to those in attendance.

Extensive weather delays postponed phase 1, but Wagenbach assured the audience that work is ongoing, and actions and considerations have been “meticulously” planned and coordinated with multiple local, state and federal agencies throughout.


“Haleakalā is a sacred space, we have to do our part to take care of the land,” he said. “We will continue to do that at each step of the recovery process.”

Planning is also underway to replace the generator with a smaller, more efficient one, minimizing fuel storage requirements. Part of that discussion is the addition of a tertiary containment system to improve safety and prevent a future mishap.

The telescopes at the MSSC atop Haleakalā are used for research as well as tracking and monitoring satellites, ensuring the safety of the nation’s most critical strategic assets, according to the Pacific Air Forces.


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