Navy proposes defueling Red Hill but keeping tanks in place for ‘beneficial reuse’
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Under a closure plan submitted to the state Tuesday, the Navy is proposing to empty the Red Hill fuel facility but keep the underground tanks in place ― potentially for “beneficial reuse.”
Military officials stressed the tanks would not be used again for fuel or other contaminants.
Rather, they said, “beneficial reuse” might include storage or for hydroelectric uses.
Assistant Secretary of the Navy Meredith Berger said permanent closure of the tanks is expected to take an additional three years after fuel is removed ― which means the effort would wrap up about 2027.
Defueling the tanks but keeping them in place is among four alternatives submitted to the state Health Department for review in the Navy’s latest plan and the option that the Navy feels is safest and the fastest.
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“The tanks would stay in place, be thoroughly cleaned and left in the ground,” Berger said.
“Closure in place also leaves the option for beneficial reuse of the tanks, which is an option we want to preserve,” she added. “We look forward to being able to update you as we move forward on our way to closure.”
The development comes as the Navy continues to empty fuel from pipelines leading to the tanks.
Once that “unpacking” phase is complete, repairs will be made to the tanks so they can be emptied safely.
The Navy has said it hopes to empty the tanks by July 2024.
Some 100 million gallons of fuel are stored at the facility ― all just 100 feet above a key aquifer.
To date, officials said more than 920,000 gallons have been drained. But military officials said the process is going slower than they anticipated due to low “pump flow rates.”
The military said it is now expected that all the fuel will be removed from the pipelines by Wednesday.
In a statement Tuesday, the Health Department said it will begin reviewing the Navy plan for closing the facility “with a focus on ensuring that closure takes place quickly and safely.”
“Any closure plan must guarantee that the Navy will never reuse the Red Hill tanks for fuel or for other substances that threaten our aquifer,” said Kathleen Ho, deputy director of Environmental Health, in a news release.
To read the full closure plan, click here.
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