Shannon Bencs

Shannon Bencs, an active-duty Navy Officer, stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, filed a whistleblower complaint in June 2020 after identifying substantial non-compliance of safety regulations at the Red Hill Fuel Facility (NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Pearl Harbor). Built-in 1943, Red Hill can store up to 250 million gallons of fuel. It consists of 20 underground storage tanks and has a storage capacity of approximately 12.5 million gallons.

Red Hill is also perched directly over the Moanalua/Waimalu Aquifer, which provides up to 25 percent of Honolulu's drinking water. The bottom of the lowest tank, Tank 1, is only 100 feet above the aquifer's water table. So when LCDR Bencs discovered the Navy was not making specific operational and infrastructure reports to state and federal regulators, she immediately attempted to enforce the mandated reporting laws that govern the facility's safe operation.

Bencs' warnings were ignored, and multiple fuel leaks followed, which were reported on in the media. Public calls for the facility to be shut down began to pile up and continue to this day. LCDR Bencs was harassed, faced gender discrimination, ostracized, and was moved to a different command without explanation.

Rather than heading LCDR Bencs' advice, Navy leadership fired her as the Fuel Director of the Red Hill Facility. However, Shannon was not deterred and continued to speak out against the Inspector General's problematic activities and Congress members. She further discovered that funds were not being distributed per the Appropriations Act.

"Leading by fear was a prominent characteristic by leadership at the command," said Bencs.

Despite months of investigations, multi-agency involvement, and Shannon's relentless adherence to the Navy Core Values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment, there is still a long fight ahead for the Lieutenant Commander. Nevertheless, she is pinpointing inequities in the Equal Opportunity response process and bringing to light several environmental dangers that would have otherwise been unreported.