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Hawaii congressional leaders say it could take 2 years to start defueling Red Hill fuel tanks

Hawaii congressmembers said the defueling of the Navy’s tanks will likely be pushed back about a year and that process could begin in the fall of 2024 if all go
Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 4:49 AM HST|Updated: Jun. 21, 2022 at 5:59 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii congressmembers said the defueling of the Navy’s tanks will likely be pushed back about a year and that process could begin in Fall 2024 — if all goes well.

Eight months after the last fuel spill, residents on the Pearl Harbor Water System said the Navy isn’t moving fast enough to comply with the state’s defueling order.

But in a town hall organized by U.S. Congressmen Ed Case and Kai Kahele at Moanalua High School’s Performing Arts Center, they explained that it’s a complicated process, and it will take time.

“We are not going to be able to safely or responsibly defuel in the time frame that couple of months ago we were hoping for,” Case said.

The Navy’s plans to defuel the tanks is due June 30, which congressional leaders say will still need to be approved by the state Health Department.

What will follow is likely a years-long process of bidding contracts, approving funding, and eventually draining and dismantling the tanks.

Board of Water Supply’s Chief Engineer Ernie Lau said they’re still waiting on the Navy’s investigation report into the aquifer.

“What isn’t happening is really their actions aren’t measuring up to their words,” said Lau.

But Lau said he’s optimistic.

“I think it’s important that they have this opportunity to demonstrate action consistent with their words that they follow through,” said Lau.

Veronica Crescioni who lives on Hickam Airforce Base said she is still paying for clean water to drink and bathe in.

“We still have nasty water in our house,” said Crescioni. “Before I came here, I set up our 5-gallon jug with water I heated on the stove, and mixed with other gallons of jugs for my 17-year-old to take a shower.”

Congress has allocated $1.1 billion to address drinking water contamination, help displaced families and advance future water treatment and distribution projects.

But Crescioni said she sees very little progress.

“I think it’s very slow,” said Crescioni. “Money is thrown at them all the time to fix this.”

“We’re using filters for cold water laundry, hot water is banned in our home, we don’t trust it,” added Davie-Ann Thomas. “I’m going to be honest; the Navy has been very quiet to us.”

Hawaii’s congressional leaders said concerns remain over the tainted water crisis.

“We are still very concerned about our impacted families and communities who definitely still have health concerns, the possibility of long-term health consequences,” said Case.

The Navy said testing has turned up no more fuel contamination in the affected communities and it will continue to test for nearly two more years.

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