Schatz: Answers coming ‘very slowly’ in probe of Red Hill toxic foam spill

U.S. Senator Brian Schatz said he helped secured $530 million in new congressional directed spending in this year’s government funding bill.
Published: Dec. 21, 2022 at 2:49 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 21, 2022 at 3:00 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation say they’re frustrated with the pace of an investigation into last month’s spill of toxic firefighting foam at Red Hill.

“We’re getting answers but we’re getting them very slowly, frankly,” said U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, on HNN Sunrise.

On Nov. 29, an estimated 1,300 gallons of aqueous film forming foam spilled at the Red Hill fuel facility.

The incident exacerbated the community’s concerns surrounding Red Hill because AFFF contains so-called “forever chemicals” known as PFAS, which have been linked to cancer.

Health clinic for military families affected by Red Hill fuel spill to open in January

“The preliminary results have come back negative. But we’re not done finding out whether there’s any of this PFAS in the soil or anywhere else,” Schatz said. “I definitely share the frustration of citizens across Oahu.”

Joint Task Force-Red Hill announced earlier this month that the work to prepare for defueling of Red Hill had been suspended to focus on the AFFF spill. The task force did not say when the defueling work would resume.

But Schatz expressed hope it will not have a major impact on the military’s goal to finish defueling by June 2024.

“The PFAS thing is very, very serious. But there’s no indication that it will actually slow down the draining timeframe. So I can’t declare that but that is the indication right now,” Schatz said.

Hawaii’s congressional team is also asking the federal Government Accountability Office to conduct an independent investigation of the Department of Defense over the AFFF spill.

Congress is on track to allocate an additional $1 billion to defuel and permanently close Red Hill. The money is included in the $1.7 trillion federal spending bill that needs to pass by Friday to avoid a government shutdown.

Also included in that bill is $530 million in new funding for Hawaii’s nonprofits and local projects.