State Health Department to reject Navy’s Red Hill defueling plan

The state said the Navy's plan lacks details.
Published: Jul. 15, 2022 at 4:35 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 16, 2022 at 10:37 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Department of Health says it will reject the Navy’s plan to defuel the Red Hill underground fuel storage tanks, citing a lack of details.

The Navy says it plans to safely remove 104 million gallons from the Red Hill tanks by the end of 2024.

But Health Department Deputy Director Kathleen Ho, who is an environmental attorney, told Hawaii News Now exclusively she can’t predict how long defueling will take or if it can be done faster.

She said that’s because the Navy’s defueling plan lacks key details on how it will be done.

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“It’s hard to say. The defueling plan itself was lacking in so many details,” Ho said. “The Navy itself in the plan indicated that the Department of Health will not approve the defueling plan because it lacked that detail.”

Ho said one of the details it needs to know is how much fuel is in the pipelines from Red Hill to Pearl Harbor ― and how crews take fuel out of the pipelines and the tanks themselves.

“They say they are going to unpack the lines, but we don’t know how they are going to unpack the lines and the true amount of fuel that’s in the line,” said Ho.

Hawaii News Now asked Ho if the current timeline was acceptable.

“I want to impress upon the Navy and everyone that the Navy should really feel the sense of urgency that we feel. That every moment that the fuel remains in the pipeline and in the tanks could lead to a disaster,” said Ho.

“DoD understands that it will not receive final DOH approval of this defueling plan until it provides to DOH an updated plan incorporating all relevant supplemental information and providing fidelity on its milestones and overall timelines,” said the Department of Defense in its plan.

“We look forward to the dialogue, discussion and feedback with DOH as we move forward to safely and expeditiously defuel Red Hill,” it added.

Critics say the Navy should be able to safely defuel faster after last year’s spills tainted the Navy’s water system and now threaten the public water supply.

“We want it now. This is the US Navy we are talking about. If they wanted to do this, if they wanted to expedite this process, they could do it,” said state Rep. Sonny Ganden (D-Kalihi Kai, Pearl Harbor, Halawa Valley).

“When you really look at the reports, it seems like it’s going to be even longer than that,” added Melodie Ajuda, environmental caucus co-chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii.

“Much more details, much more repairs to be done. I think it’ll be more like six years before it’s accomplished.”

The Navy’s own internal investigation admitted a series of catastrophic failures at Red Hill caused the crisis.

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