U.S. Space Forces Indo-Pacific News

Excavation starts at Haleakalā fuel spill

  • Published
  • Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

Following approval of a work plan, excavation for the Haleakalā fuel spill cleanup began March 3, 2023, at the Maui Space Surveillance Complex. The excavation was delayed due to inclement weather at the summit.

The work plan, approved by the Hawaii 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. The material excavated will be safely stored at the summit pending a remediation plan in phase two of the cleanup. 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.

“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 U.S. 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 Haleakala provides some of the best astronomical viewing conditions on Earth.

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

The spill occurred when a severe lightning storm at the summit damaged an emergency generator’s fuel pump.