New Red Hill plan projects earlier defueling date

The Hawaii Department of Health is reviewing an updated plan for defueling the fuel storage tanks at Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility that moves the completion date up by six months.

The Department of Defense said in a June report the projected completion date was December 2024. The new report lists a July 2024 completion date.

The DOH issued an emergency order in May requiring the DOD to defuel the tanks after a spill in November forced hundreds of residents from their homes and sickened many. The department rejected the June plan, saying it lacked detail.

The updated plan begins with "unpacking" 220,000 of fuel at the site, according to the plan. Another update on the process will be submitted to the DOH later this month.

DOH Director Kathleen Ho said the department's goal is to ensure the tanks are drained safely and as soon as possible.

"There is a continued threat to our aquifer and residents every day that fuel remains in the Red Hill tanks," Ho said. "As we review this submission, it is our full expectation that it will have the requisite amount of detail to ensure defueling work can begin."

Sen. Brian Schatz said the shutdown should not be delayed.

"We also need the Joint Task Force to become fully operational," Schatz said in a news release, referring to a task force overseeing the defueling. "That means the Secretary of Defense must act quickly and name its commander, a role that will serve as DoD's on-the-ground leader responsible for working with state and local officials to safely defuel the tanks."

Rep. Ed Case said the plan must also be reviewed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

"Full transparency and public input remain critical to maximize a successful result and regain public trust," Case said in a news release.

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