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Shut Down Red Hill To Protect Oʻahu’s Drinking Water

UPDATES: The Navy’s massive underground Red Hill Jet Fuel tanks still contains 104 million gallons of fuel just 100 feet above Honolulu’s aquifer, the primary drinking water source for Hawaiʻiʻs most populated island. Fuel from Red Hill has already contaminated the drinking water system for 93,000 Oʻahu residents - poisoning thousands of families - and creating a toxic plume of unknown size and location in the aquifer.

Families poisoned by jet fuel in November 2021 continue to detect fuel in their tap water by smell, taste, and fluorescence spectroscopy. The current allowable levels for hydrocarbons in drinking water in Hawaiʻi is too high. It has been nearly a year since fuel was detected in the drinking water, and DOD has only completed 12% of the tasks identified as critical next steps in defueling the facility; many of these critical next steps are basic maintenance and repair of the archaic facility, once deemed critical to national security. Moreover, the Navy has yet to comply with the Emergency Order issued by the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) in May 2022 because they have only submitted portions of a Defueling Plan. In an attempt to prevent the further spread of fuel pollution in the aquifer, the Navy has been pumping 5 million gallons of water a day, filtering it through granulated active carbon, and flushing that water into Hālawa Stream. At this point, the Navy has flushed nearly a billion gallons of water from the aquifer, unused.

To: President Biden, Secretary of Defense Austin, Secretary of the Navy, Hawai’i Congressional Delegation, Governor of State of Hawai'i, Director, Hawaii’s Department of Health, and the Environmental Protection Agency

The Oahu Water Protectors and the Shut Down Red Hill coalition strongly feel that the Department of Defense (DOD) is not on track to defuel these tanks as quickly and safely as possible. Their repeated delays in complying with the Hawaiʻi Department of Health’s (DOH) Emergency Order is why the Red Hill jet fuel tanks remain an active threat and continuing harm to Oahu’s environment and people. They are asking for the Hawaii Congressional Delegation’s active involvement in this water crisis to ensure the DOD is accountable for the extensive harm they have caused all residents of Oʻahu.

10 Requests:

  1. That the Hawai’i Congressional Delegation visit the affected communities and host an interagency, intergovernmental, and community town hall/public forum, for the community to learn directly from those suffering from the Navy’s negligence, and to begin a meaningful conversation and collaboration to immediately defuel the Red Hill underground tanks;
  2. Clarify/amend the current Defueling Plan submitted to the DOH to:
    - Change the Metrics of Success to defueling the Red Hill tanks at the earliest possible date, no later than Spring 2023;
    - Identify and analyze all additional and alternative strategies for defueling, including but not limited to:
        - Pumping fuel into transport trucks or modern piping systems that can begin defueling in the immediate future, and shorten overall defueling timelines;
        - Using additional tankers to shuttle fuel to safe locations at-sea or on the continent; and
        - Defueling tanks from new, above-ground access points
  3. Immediate follow-up visits with affected families by Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, and the Secretary’s of the Army and Air Force and the new Joint Task Force;
  4. Creation of regional mechanisms that further civilian oversight of military operations in their respective communities;
  5. Allocate funds for a third-party assessment to determine quicker ways to defuel Red Hill tanks, given that the Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger, Inc. Report (SGH, April 2022) assumed the facility would remain in operation, which is no longer the case;
  6. Conduct extensive series of studies on how existing fuel can be removed from the Sole Source Aquifer;
  7. Reduce military personnel and dependents stationed on Oʻahu in order to reduce the amount of water consumed by military operations during the drinking water shortage;
  8. Halt flushing water from the aquifer by the Navy. Require DOD to capture that precious water and put it to beneficial use.
  9. Relieve the Navy of responsibility for delivering drinking water to the public, military personnel, and military dependents. Rather, DOD should contract a third party, such as the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, to provide drinking water; and
  10. Ensure the DOD bares the full financial burden of restoring our aquifer to pristine condition, no matter how long it takes.


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