Hirono: $100M appropriation just the start of expected price tag for emptying Red Hill tanks

US Sen. Mazie Hirono toured the Red Hill well with leaders of the Navy and spoke with residents and businesses shuttered for months by the tainted water crisis.
Published: Feb. 22, 2022 at 5:36 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 22, 2022 at 5:55 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono says draining fuel from the Red Hill tanks is going to take millions more ― and cleaning the contamination will be a long-term effort.

Hirono, D-Hawaii, toured the fuel-tainted Red Hill well with leaders of the Navy and then spoke with residents and businesses at the Navy Exchange Mall. Eateries at the mall have been shuttered for nearly three months while residents are fatigued by the crisis.

“Our ability to rely on what the Navy is telling us has been shaken,” said Hirono.

Residents say the toll of the crisis is weighing on them.

“I’m not going to lie. This week, I had one of the worst breakdowns I’ve had in my adult life. It’s been really hard,” said Izzy Corcoran., who lives at Aliamanu Military Reservation and says her husband is about to deploy. “Just the thought of dealing with all this alone is really scary.”

NEX eateries complained of lack of communication from the Navy and no insurance compensation during the crisis.

“It’s depressing. I try not to come up because it’s depressing,” said Robert Mering, Dairy Queen owner.

“Especially my employees they are begging to come back. They don’t want to be out,” he added.

On Friday, President Biden signed a bill into law that includes $100 million to drain the Red Hill fuel tanks. Hirono says Congress asked for $500 million so she’s continuing to push for more and demand language that any refueling comes with a state permit.

But critics charge that for years Congress ignored the problems at the underground fuel storage tanks despite community warnings of catastrophic leaks.

“The only ownership that they are taking now is this idea that they are part of the solution. They’ve been warned about this for years and they did nothing,” said activist and filmmaker Mikey Inouye.

Hirono was careful with her words when asked if she’s calling for a permanent shutdown of the Red Hill Underground Bulk Storage Fuel Facility.

“In order to have a permanent shutdown, we have to make sure that people can get back into their homes so that means we need to test and flush out their pipes,” said Hirono.

“The second thing that happens if we are going to shut down Red Hill is to defuel. That’s going to require a lot of money. That’s why the bills that I am focused on are the ones that are going to get us to the closure of Red Hill,” she added.

Hirono says she’s trying to convince the Department of Defense to find an alternative to Red Hill.

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