Tue, Jun 21, 2022 8:42 AM
By Kim Jarrett, The Center Square
Defueling the Red Hill Bulk Storage Facility could take longer than first thought, according to comments from U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele.
The comments were made at a town hall meeting sponsored by Kahele and U.S. Rep. Ed Case.
A significant fuel leak in Oahu's water supply was discovered in November last year. The Hawaii Department of Health ordered the U.S. Navy to close the facility. U.S Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in March that Red Hill would be permanently closed.
A May report found several structural deficiencies at the storage facility. The 880-page report made 200 recommendations. Those need to be considered before defueling, Kahele said.
"Rapidly defueling could cause more problems," he said.
An order from the DOH requires the Navy to submit a plan for defueling by June 30, which must be approved before work begins.
"I don't know how long it's going to take the state of Hawaii to evaluate," Case said. "This is a critical plan for the state to approve."
The congressional delegation is working to secure additional funding for the defueling, Case said. The U.S House Committee on Appropriations is considering two bills that would provide an additional $1.1 billion to $1 billion secured early this year. The Committee would hold hearings and vote on the bill in July, according to Case.
Depending on how long the repairs take, it could be the fall of 2024 before the tanks are drained, according to Kahele, who is stepping down from Congress to run for governor.
The fuel storage facility contains "20 steel-lined underground storage tanks encased in concrete" that can hold up to 250 million gallons of fuel, according to its website. The facility has not been in use since December, a Pentagon spokesperson said. Kahele says about 12 of the tanks have fuel.
Families said they are still detecting fuel in the water and having symptoms they said were associated with the leak.
Veronica Crescioni, who lives on Hickam Air Force Base, said her family was not tested for health issues.
"We could write down all the symptoms we went through, everything our kids went through and the it was put in our records so we could be studied for the next few years or whatever," Crescioni said. "Our water is still not clean. WE have not used our water in our home except to flush our toilets."
Kahele said he would follow up with specific concerns from residents.
"This is something that we're not going to let the U.S. military get away with," he said.