Schatz secures $100M in federal funds to help cover costs of emptying Red Hill tanks

US Senator Brian Schatz says the Red Hill tank system can't be operated safely.
Published: Feb. 7, 2022 at 3:48 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 7, 2022 at 5:43 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz announced Monday that he has secured $100 million in new federal funding to help cover the costs of emptying the Red Hill fuel tanks.

The funds are part of more than $400 million included in a federal spending bill for the Red Hill crisis. The bill is expected pass the House and Senate before heading to the President’s desk next week.

In an interview Monday, Schatz told HNN that the Red Hill tank system can’t be safely run.

“I think we should shut it down,” he said. “I think the arguments in favor of keeping it in place are pretty weak at this point.”

Schatz says he doesn’t know how much it would cost to drain the Red Hill tanks, but calls it a first step as Board of Water Supply officials have warned there could be Oahu water restrictions this summer.

“What can I tell you is that this bill puts us in a stronger position to move faster than we had previous contemplated because this is an emergency,” said Schatz.

“We were able to get this in there on the basis that it is that time sensitive,” he added.

The measure comes as a community group, Wai Ola Alliance, considers filing suit against he Navy.

The plaintiffs are seeking to shut down the tanks permanently.

“It’s not a Hawaiian issue. Water is the source of humanity. It’s from God,” said plaintiff Mary Maxine Kahaulelio.

Kahaulelio, 84, and 85 year-old Clarence Ku Ching are known for their Hawaiian activism and are joining forces with business and community activists.

“We are sitting ducks. We have been sitting ducks for a long time,” said Ching.

Plaintiff Kim Coco Iwamoto said the Navy has had enough time to come up with a plan for draining the tanks. “The Navy has had so many decades ... to put some kind of plan in place and take actionable measurable steps to prevent the disaster that happened and they did nothing,” Iwamoto said.

“It’s way to dangerous. It’s needs to be shut down. It needs to be closed,” added Melodie Aduja, co-chair of the environmental caucus for the Democratic Party of Hawaii.

The state ordered the Navy to empty the underground fuel storage tanks, which sit 100 feet above a key aquifer, after fuel contaminated the Navy’s own water line.

The Department of Defense is fighting that order in court.

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