EPA: Fuel from Red Hill leak probably won't reach drinking water

EPA: Fuel from Red Hill leak probably won't reach drinking water
Published: Oct. 6, 2016 at 7:43 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 6, 2016 at 9:19 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Environmental Protection Agency says millions of gallons of fuel stored in a military facility under Red Hill is unlikely to reach the water supply.

"It's very unlikely that that contamination, that mass we're seeing under the tanks, gets anywhere near the Board of Water Supply wells," Steven Linder, of the EPA, told the state Health Department's Underground Fuel Tank Advisory Committee on Thursday.

The Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility stores millions of gallons of fuel for the military. Since a tank leaked 27,000 gallons in 2014, the Board of Water Supply has worried about the possibility of another disaster leaking jet fuel into its aquifers.

"The million dollar question is, will it eventually spread and could it reach our wells?" BWS Manager and Chief Engineer Ernest Lau said.

The Navy says multiple tests conducted since the spill show the drinking water is safe. It has 14 wells that monitor groundwater.

"If the studies indicated that we need more wells to create a protective barrier and to ensure we have no gaps in coverage then we're committed to putting more wells if the facts and science support that," said Capt. Kenneth Epps, of Fleet Logistics Command.

But Lau said the Board of Water Supply wants more monitoring wells.

And he also urged the Navy to speed up its plan for coming up with a long-term fix.

In the long-term, the Navy plans to upgrade the tanks or take them out of service.

"These tanks are 73 years old right now," Lau said. "Do the math and add another 22 or 27 years, and we're looking at at a facility close to a century old."

Epps said the Navy is studying whether encasing the giant tanks with an outer wall is doable.

But the EPA and state Health Department called elements in the Navy's proposed work plan "inadequate" and lacking needed details.

And U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, on Thursday criticized the Navy for failing to work more quickly to address the situation.

"The people of Oahu deserve the Navy's full compliance and urgent attention to ensure the safety of the water aquifer and drinking water," Gabbard said, in a news release. "The Navy must treat this situation with the urgency it deserves and prioritize the planning and work that needs to be executed at the facility."

The Navy has asked for more time to address the concerns from the EPA and Health Department. The task force wants to have a report ready by the time the state Legislature convenes.

"So this actually helps us get to a better plan to get to, ultimately, a better solution for Red Hill," Epps said.

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