Critics still not appeased by state’s proposed changes for Red Hill fuel tanks

Updated: Dec. 2, 2019 at 8:04 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - With the future of the Navy's Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility still uncertain, critics on Monday urged the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) to dismiss its proposed rule changes for the state's underground storage tanks.

The Red Hill tanks must be upgraded by 2037 under the Administrative Order on Consent between the Environmental Protection Agency, the state and the Navy.

Navy officials said based on public feedback, they’re committed to provide secondary containment or de-fuel the tanks in 2045.

The DOH is proposing changes to existing state regulations that would align with that deadline.

State health officials said the proposed amendments to the Hawaii Administrative Rules are designed to boost protection for public health and the environment since all field-constructed underground storage tanks would be required to have secondary containment by July 15, 2045.

The Board of Water Supply objected to the proposal during a meeting in Pearl City to receive public testimony.

“2045 is too long to allow these tanks to continue. They need to be upgraded to double wall containment -- tank within a tank -- much sooner or the fuel needs to get removed,” said Ernest Lau, manager and chief engineer of the Board of Water Supply.

Other opponents also expressed their concerns.

"What does this extension do to promote and to protect the health of our people, and to promote and protect the health of these islands?" questioned Waimalu resident Danielle Espiritu.

In 2014, 27,000 gallons of fuel leaked from a tank above the aquifer that provides drinking water to residents from Moanalua to Hawaii Kai. The water wasn't contaminated, but critics are still worried about the potential for a crisis.

“The tanks were built in three years using 1940′s technology. It’s time for the Navy to really get their heads together and start procuring the funding that’s going to be necessary to relocate the tanks,” said Jodi Malinoski, policy advocate for the Sierra Club of Hawaii.

Navy officials said they're committed to keep the water safe to drink, operate the storage facility safely, and protect the nation.

The Department of Defense has invested more than $162 million in the last five years to modernize the facility and anticipates spending $250 million on additional upgrades.

The DOH will accept written testimony on the proposed rule changes until Dec. 16, 2019.

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