After delay, Navy to kick off first phase of massive Red Hill defueling effort
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Navy is preparing to kick off the first phase of a massive effort to empty the Red Hill underground fuel facility. The so-called “unpacking” of three pipelines that lead to the facility will kick off Tuesday.
A military joint task force will remove roughly 1 million gallons of fuel from three primary pipelines that are roughly 3 miles from the underground Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility to fuel locations on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
“The most dangerous aspect of this mission is the potential for fuel to enter the aquifer that’s the bottom line,” said Rear Admiral John Wade, Commander, Joint Task Force-Red Hill.
90 percent of the fuel will be removed by gravity while the rest is by sucking it out.
“Gravity can only get us so far. We are going to have to remove the residual fuel by pulling it out of the line,” said Capt. Shawn Triggs, Fleet Logistics Center, Commanding Officer, U.S. Navy.
The military went through six drills to prepare for a worst-case scenario — a spill or fire.
“We’ve also incorporated lessons learned from the May and November spills so we applied those lessons learned so we could improve our performance and reduce risk to the greatest extent possible,” said Wade.
The unpacking of the lines will be done 2 to 3 hours per day and is expected to take 6 days. The fuel will be drained to above-ground storage tanks and fuel barges at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to support local ships and aircraft.
Wade says DOH and EPA will be on-site during the operation.
Once that’s complete, the Navy will begin an extensive repair process. After that, crews can empty the underground tanks, where 104 million gallons of fuel are stored just 100 feet above a key aquifer.
The “unpacking” plan was pushed back from earlier this month due to the Navy’s recent water main breaks. The Navy hopes to complete the defueling effort by June 2024.
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