(BIVN) – University of Hawaiʻi President David Lassner, speaking to the UH Board of Regents on Thursday, provided an update on the recent chemical spill on Maunakea.
In January, the University reported that it was looking into fluid leaks from the chilling system of the UH 88-inch observatory, which is operated the UH Institute for Astronomy.
From Lassner’s report to the Regents:
“This one was a spill of ethylene glycol, basically anti-freeze, that’s used to cool the electronics and maintain the Telescope. We actually turned the system off. We don’t need to do much cooling in winter at the top of Mauna Kea. It was turned off. It could not be restarted. When we tried to restart it after the storm – and it appeared that fluid level was low – a valve was visibly dripping fluid and there was a pool of fluid on the concrete floor under the pump.
So that was immediately cleaned up. We’re still figuring out exactly how much may have leaked into the surrounding ground and cinder. It is not one hundred percent certain that this was reportable, but out of an abundance of caution we are reporting it to everyone who accepts reports on any of this type of incident.
I’ll just say – I mean, most of you have probably dealt with anti-freeze at some point in your lifetime. You do not want to drink it, but it breaks down typically in a matter of days-to-weeks. So it is not the worst kind of spill that one can encounter.
So, again, we have a corrective action plan in place, working with – in this case – primarily the Department of Health. The glycol chiller system is offline and won’t be restarted until we understand what happened and how to make sure that it will be fixed.”
President Lassner also explained the situation involving the 700 gallons of diesel fuel spilled at the Maui Space Surveillance Complex on Haleakalā.