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Operations still on hold at Red Hill underground storage tanks amid ongoing water crisis

Operations at the underground Red Hill storage tanks will remain on hold as Navy officials investigate water contamination impacting some 93,000 people on Oahu.
Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 3:48 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 8, 2021 at 4:27 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Operations at the underground Red Hill storage tanks will remain on hold as Navy officials investigate the source of water contamination impacting some 93,000 people on Oahu.

Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro directed the pause until the investigation is complete.

Petroleum products have been found tainting the water, making it unsafe for people to consume or use for daily needs.

“The safety, health and well-being of our service members, civilians, contractors, their families and our communities here in Oahu is of the utmost importance to me,” Del Toro said. “This is not acceptable and the Department of the Navy will take every action to identify and remedy this issue. We will continue to coordinate with federal, state and local entities to restore safe drinking water to the community.”

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Monday night, the governor ordered the Navy to empty and essentially shut down its Red Hill underground fuel storage tanks.

The Navy has since announced they are contesting the state’s emergency order, and Wednesday’s announcement had no mention of the state’s demands.

On Wednesday, upset residents and advocates staged a protest against the Navy’s handling of the water crisis.

They demonstrated right in front of the base at the Makalapa Gate, in hopes of getting top Navy officials’ attention during the commission of the U.S.S Daniel Inouye, expressing anger over the Navy’s handling of it all.

”I’m outraged that the Navy is contesting that they need to empty the fuel tank,” said Alison Bhattacharyya from Nuuanu. “It needs to be emptied and drained now, and that’s the simplest, most obvious, most common-sense solution.“

The Environmental Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii organized the protest. ”We wanted to be here,” said Melodie Aduja, co-chair of the caucus. “We wanted them to see that we are in objection of the running of Red Hill.”

The Red Hill and Halawa wells will continue to be isolated until the problem is solved. The Navy is also considering if it’ll acquire a drinking water treatment system, and will have an independent third party assess the facility’s operations.

The Navy says they will continue to work with federal, state and Native Hawaiian organizations to address the issues.

“Our people will always be our first priority. Their safety is paramount,” Secretary Del Toro said. “We are aiming for a new normal: One where this never happens again. The Department is determined and committed to making the necessary changes.”

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