State legislators appeal for greater response to Red Hill fuel facility
Joint letter says “real danger” of contamination to drinking water should not be ignored
Calling the proposed agreement between federal and state health agencies and the U.S. Navy unacceptable, eighteen State Senate and House Legislators are calling for stronger and swifter measures to ensure the safety and security of Oahu’s drinking water supply following the fuel leak from the Red Hill Bulk Storage Facility.
In response to data that shows contaminants have been found in the groundwater beneath the Red Hill fuel tanks, a letter signed by nearly all Oahu Senators and a number of Oahu Representatives asks the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and State Department of Health (DOH) to reject the proposed Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) and renegotiate with the U.S. Navy to strengthen the requirements for leak prevention and detection of underground storage tanks and bring them up to federal conformance standards within in no more than ten years, with at least half of the operating tanks being brought up to standards within five years.
“The Navy claims their rigorous inspection and repair standards will ensure the tanks are safe. However, after repairing one tank last year, it immediately leaked approximately 27,000 gallons of fuel,” said Sen. Laura Thielen (Kailua, Lanikai, Enchanted Lake, Keolu Hills, Maunawili, Waimānalo, Hawai‘i Kai, Portlock). “It would be unconscionable to delay measures any longer that would prevent further leaks and risk the spread of any contamination to our water supply.”
In consideration of the age of the fuel tanks which are now 70 years old and hold up to 250 million gallons of fuel and the known history of leaks, the joint letter also calls for the State to require the Navy to increase the pace of the AOC investigation and installation of new groundwater monitoring wells.
“While we recognize the important role the U.S. Navy and Pacific Command has amongst our nation and understand the Navy has provided assurances that significant efforts have been made to maintain the fuel tanks and protect these tanks from fuel leaks, it is simply unacceptable the ostensible lack of urgency to do more to protect this island’s aquifer that is critical to one-fourth of Honolulu’s population,” said Sen. Thielen. “We respectfully request that the tangible risk to our water supply be considered a much higher priority and the tanks be completely overhauled or replaced sooner as opposed to later.”
The letter also requests the Navy provide to the DOH and Honolulu Board of Water Supply records and data regarding the operations of the Red Hill fuel tanks in order to be better informed and negotiate further on equal footing.
“Ways in which we would be able to make the necessary repairs to these tanks and provide jobs that will help the local economy should be part of the discussion,” said Sen. Thielen. “If negotiations are to consider the cost feasibility of repairing or replacing the fuel tanks, we should also consider the cost that contamination of our aquifer will have on Oahu residents and our natural resources.”
The Legislators submitting the joint letter are Senators Sam Slom, Les Ihara, Jr., Brickwood Galuteria, Suzanne Chun Oakland, Donna Mercado Kim, Glenn Wakai, Breene Harimoto, Clarence Nishihara, Michelle Kidani, Will Espero, Maile Shimabukuro, Gil Riviere and Laura Thielen, and Representatives Bertrand Kobayashi, Della Au Belatti, Jarrett Keohokalole, Cynthia Thielen and Chris Lee.
The letter is being presented as part of the public comment period on the proposed AOC which has a deadline of July 20, 2015.
Information about the Red Hill Fuel Facility and links to the proposed AOC are available at http://www.epa.gov/region9/redhill/ and http://health.hawaii.gov/RedHill .