By Ronald Inman, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Far East Public Affairs
YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- A U.S. Navy team played a key role in the rapid repair and successful testing of the last six kilometers of pipeline fueling Misawa Air Base April 15.
The mission's success was the result of a collaborative effort that began within days of the devastating earthquake and tsunami which struck northern Japan March 11.
"We made our way to the site the day after the tsunami and the devastation was incredible," said Lt. Dustin Glazier, Misawa Air Base's public works officer. "Cars had floated off the road and damaged fences, light poles and structures. There was no power, no water and about six inches of mud on everything."
Within three days of the earthquake, a small team of inspectors from Naval Facilities Engineering Command's (NAVFAC) Engineering Service Center (ESC) in Port Hueneme, Calif., began investigating the condition of tanks, pipes and fuel delivery system components at Defense Fuel Supply Point (DFSP) Hachinohe, which normally supplies fuel to Misawa Air Base but was damaged and not functioning.
According to Glazier, nearly the entire pipeline was submerged during the tsunami, and although there were no fuel leaks, there was significant damage to the supports and positioning of the lines. In one of the worst sections, a run of 100 meters of pipe was lifted off its stanchions and displaced about 35 meters from its original location. Some of the stanchions were twisted, some experienced severe erosion and some sections previously buried underground were exposed.
In addition to the main terminal, which was swept over by the tsunami, Pump Station No. 2 was completely flooded, with water reaching the roof of most of its structures.
The team completed a detailed assessment, which not only provided a framework for long-term recovery efforts, but also plotted a course for bringing the system back on line in a short amount of time. NAVFAC ESC quickly completed actions to bring in a contractor who mobilized on site and began necessary repairs.
Parallel to these efforts, U.S. Navy Seabees from NAVFAC Far East's Public Works Department (PWD) Misawa arrived at DFSP Hachinohe 36 hours after the earthquake and tsunami. They immediately began clearing debris and reestablishing more than 500 feet of security fencing damaged by the tsunami. Many sections were damaged when vehicles, floating away with the moving water, crossed over the fence.
After the tsunami waters receded, approximately eight inches of sludge covered the entire site. Fuel containment berms were full of water since the drainage system was clogged with sludge.
Working with Japanese Master Labor Contract (MLC) employees from PWD Misawa and Fleet and Industrial Supply Center (FISC) fuels personnel, Seabees cleared the site of sediment three weeks following the tsunami. In one of the most rewarding experiences, the group was joined by Japanese Sailors from Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) Mobile Construction Group Hachinohe. The JMSDF Sailors removed nearly 250 tons of debris by hand from within the fuel containment berms. All told, the groups removed more than 600 tons of debris from DFSP Hachinohe, which was transported for use as fill material at Misawa Air Base.
Seabees focused a lot of their efforts on the catastrophically-damaged Pump Station No. 2. Work to dry out the site, which still had one foot of standing water, began March 22. They cut drainage channels through the debris and operated pumps. PWD Misawa contacted the local JMSDF office, and they worked with the port authority to mobilize a contractor to make long-term fixes to the drainage problem.
Once the site had been dewatered, Seabees and PWD Misawa MLCs began the tedious process of removing sediment from the site and from within the buildings. These efforts were completed April 15, the same day as the pipeline test. Although Pump Station No. 2 occupies only 10 percent of the area of the main terminal, another 550 tons of sediment was removed from just that site alone.
"The most rewarding part so far has been working with all of the different groups who have made contributions to this effort," concluded Glazier. "In addition to our own Seabees, we worked with the Defense Logistics Agency and the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force Public Works employees, FISC Fuels Yokosuka, NAVFAC Far East, PWD Atsugi, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 5, Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1, Underwater Construction Team 2, U.S. 7th Fleet salvage divers and the Air Force's 35th Fighter Wing. Everyone played a key role, from Hachinohe Harbor right up to Misawa Air Base."