State regulators push to relocate Red Hill fuel tanks as Navy studies potential new sites

Updated: Apr. 16, 2019 at 6:29 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Navy pumps fuel from its Red Hill tanks to its piers at Pearl Harbor.

Early last year, a Navy study looked at twelve potential new sites if it were to shut down its 20 current tanks.

State health director Bruce Anderson wants the current tanks moved because of the potential for a catastrophic leak that could contaminate the water supply.

"They are 70 years old and showing signs of deterioration," said Anderson.

He prefers the potential sites closer to Pearl Harbor because they don’t sit above the aquifer and says the four potential mauka sites from Halawa to Ft. Shafter should be off the table.

"The entire area from Halawa to Fort Shafter is above drinking water sites and we would not want to see more tanks up in these areas," said Anderson.

“I think it was unfortunate that the Navy’s preferred option was immediately adjacent to the Red Hill site,” said Jodi Malinoski, Sierra Club of Hawaii, Chapter Policy Advocate.

The Navy says many factors have changed since its study came out more than a year ago and it’s still examining all of the options from maintaining the current tanks to moving them. One of its concerns about moving them closer to the ocean is the potential for sea level rise and climate change.

"What we would rather do in this situation is apply scientific rigor and discipline in this process then make half considered judgments before we commit large amounts of money to an alternative that may or may not work," said Randy Young, Navy Region Hawaii, civilian attorney.

The 2014 spill of 27,000 gallons of fuel at one of the Red Hill tanks did not contaminate the water table, but the water board is still worried.

"We need a greater sense of urgency and it's really to prevent any further leakage from these tanks," said Ernest Lau, Board of Water Supply, manager and chief engineer.

Young says the Navy has a sense of urgency regarding its studies and research to address the concerns.

While the Navy said it’s hard to provide estimates, Anderson said maintaining the tanks would cost $1.6 billion for 20 years and is about the same as the cost of relocation.

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