Hawaii's Red Hill fuel cleanup could require more tax dollars than allocated

(The Center Square) - More than $1 billion is being poured into the defueling and cleanup efforts connected to the Red Hill fuel storage facility in Hawaii, but one lawmaker said more money is needed.

According to Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, $1 billion in federal funding was included in President Biden’s budget request last month. That’s in addition to the $150 million in federal funds secured in March and another $100 million included in an appropriations bill in February, the senator said.

However, Schatz said in a recent statement that more funds are needed. He said he is working with the Biden administration and Senate leaders to secure additional funding.

Meanwhile, the last figures released by the U.S. Navy show an estimated $348 million is needed for cleanup and temporary lodging for those affected by the fuel leak. About 3,500 families were affected.

The Department of Defense (DoD) dropped its legal challenge to the State of Hawaii’s emergency public health order last week, which Schatz said will make things easier moving forward.

“This is the right thing to do, and I worked very hard to push the DoD to make this decision,” Schatz said. “The legal challenge to the order made it difficult for the state to work cooperatively with the DoD, and dropping the lawsuit paves the way for us to shut down Red Hill this year.”

Gov. David Ige also released a statement last week calling the decision a “very positive development.”

“We will continue working to ensure the Red Hill tanks are safely defueled and closed by the federal government and that the state will have access to clean, fresh water for the future,” said Ige.

Hawaii’s Department of Health (DOH) issued the emergency order in December to defuel the Red Hill facility after the leak was discovered.

The Pentagon ordered the permanent closure of Red Hill in March. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said a detailed plan for defueling the facility would be available no later than May 31, adding the target completion date would be within 12 months.

Meanwhile, the DOH says it is overseeing the Navy’s long-term drinking water monitoring plan, which includes two years of monitoring homes, schools, childcare facilities and other buildings. The Navy will test 5% of homes and other buildings monthly in each zone of the Navy water system for the first three months, said the DOH in a status report released last week.

The Navy is also expected to drill high-priority sentinel monitoring wells this year to “assist experts in protecting Oahu’s drinking water supply,” the DOH said.

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