Task force holds open house to share defueling plans for underground tanks on Red Hill

Joint Task Force hosts an open house to discuss steps involved in defueling the Red Hill Bulk Storage Facility.
Published: May. 23, 2023 at 10:15 PM HST|Updated: May. 24, 2023 at 10:38 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Joint Task Force hosts an open house to discuss steps involved in defueling the Red Hill Bulk Storage Facility.

On Tuesday, families got to see and learn how the military is planning to drain the giant underground tanks.

Booths, storyboards, and videos filled the Alfred Los Banos Pavilion as Joint Task Force Red Hill officials discussed planning and operations, quality assurance, and training to remove more than 100 million gallons of jet fuel six months ahead of schedule.

“We found that the best way to communicate is one on one where we have an opportunity to explain what we’re doing, but they can ask their questions in a nonthreatening environment,” said Commander Nico Melendez, spokesman of JTF-Red Hill.

“We’ve reviewed our procedures, and we’re working them in coordination with the regulators, the Department of Health, and the EPA,” said Vice Admiral John Wade, Commander of JTF-Red Hill. “And then we’re training, and we’re training hard at the individual level at the team level. And then we’re doing rehearsals, tabletops, and then drills.”

Before they can begin de-fueling in the projected start date, October, they need approval from regulators who have helped plan seven response drills in case of a fire or another spill.

“So our next one is forthcoming on June 8 and that response drill, we’ll be testing the scenario where we have a leak in the lower access tunnel, and it will go through to replicate ahead of repacking, right,” said Brigadier General Michelle Link, Deputy Commander of JTF-Red Hill. “When we move fuel back into the lines to repack them, you have to have the lines filled and no more air left in the system.”

The drills can take from a day to several weeks.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it would be involved in all the exercises.

“Repairing piping and drainage systems connected to the Red Hill tanks that will be used to de-fuel those tanks and to ensure that all the infrastructure is fit for service and full, good integrity so that the work can hopefully proceed safely,” said Pete Reich of the EPA’s Region Nine Oil Program.

The military said they’re also working on completing 253 mandated repairs before the de-fueling begins.