Stressing urgency of project, Pentagon says emptying Red Hill tanks will cost $280M
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Emptying the Red Hill Bulk Storage Fuel Tanks will cost at least $280 million, according to Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder.
Next month, crews plan to take out jet fuel from the pipelines before extensive repairs.
Then 104 million gallons of fuel can be removed from the aging tanks, Ryder said.
“The fuel will be taken to a variety of locations to include off-shore and to certain commercial storage tanks on the island,” said Ryder, who spoke to Hawaii News Now during a recent trip to the nation’s capital.
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Under a defueling plan, a 10.5 million-gallon tanker will move the Red Hill fuel from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to the mainland in three round trips over 45 days. A second tanker will move the fuel in seven round trips every 14 days from Pearl Harbor to an unnamed island fuel storage facility near West Oahu.
The PAR Hawaii refinery at Campbell Industrial Park has been in talks with the military.
The job will be led by a new commander of a Joint Task Force Red Hill, Rear Admiral John Wade.
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“Admiral Wadeʻs sole responsibility will be to oversee and to lead the defueling effort for the Red Hill facility,” Ryder said.
Last week, there was an exercise for a worst case scenario: A spill during defueling.
Hawaii News Now asked if there is another spill, what would the Department of Defense do? “I donʻt want to get into hypotheticals and our focus is on making sure we do this right the first time,” said Ryder.
The DOD has shortened its defueling timeline by six months to July 2024.
HNN asked if the DOD can move the project even faster and safely.
“We are going to move as fast as we can to make sure we can expeditiously remove that fuel,” said Ryder.
Last week, families who were sickened by the Navy’s fuel-tainted tap water from the Red Hill fuel leaks joined Native Hawaiian activists to protest in Washington in D.C. Some members of Congress believe the defueling needs to be sped up before another spill contaminates Oahu’s drinking water.
“The Department of Defense is perfectly capable of moving quickly when it has to when itʻs an emergency situation and they should be on an emergency footing right now,” said U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz.
Schatz spoke with the new joint task force commander and worries the defueling process could get bogged down in bureaucracy. “I also told him that these timelines are still going too slow,” said Schatz.
Ryder said the DOD understands the sense of urgency for the project.
“This is among the Department of Defenseʻs top priorities. We care about our families. We care about the Hawaiian community. We want to make sure we are doing this right,” said Ryder.
A $1 billion budget proposal that includes all costs connected to Red Hill is still going through the appropriations process.
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