Hawaii congressmen introduce legislation to shut down US Navy tank farm

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A US Navy salvage diver works to remove fuel from the top layer of the water column in a contaminated well in Red Hill, December 2021 (USN)

Posted on February 13, 2022 at 10:09 p.m. by

The Maritime Executive







Hawaii’s two congressmen introduced a bill to force the closure of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, the 1940s tank farm buried in the hills above Pearl Harbor . Last year, a jet fuel spill inside the facility contaminated a drinking water well for the Navy-operated water supply system that serves Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, forcing thousands military families to relocate while the Navy works to decontaminate its water lines.


The Honolulu Water Supply Board fears the spill could threaten an aquifer serving the city of Honolulu, and the Hawaii Department of Health has ordered the Navy to halt operations at Red Hill and drain its giant tanks for inspection. The service complied in part, halting fuel transfers, but it is suing the state to block the order to drain the tanks.


In response to the lawsuit, Congressmen Kai Kahele and Ed Case (D-HI) introduced a bill requiring the closure of the facility. He would order the Navy to halt all fueling operations at the Red Hill site; empty all its tanks by the end of 2022; then permanently close the installation.


“The Red Hill WAI Act guarantees the complete and permanent closure of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility and requires the United States Navy to empty the facility by the end of the year,” the member said. of Congress Kaiali?i Kahele. “I have spoken to many families who describe serious illnesses after cooking, bathing or ingesting contaminated water. And yet, after several months, there are thousands of families who remain displaced – unable to return at her’s.”


In addition, it would require the Navy to reimburse the state and local government for costs related to water contamination. Similar legislation is being introduced in the Senate by US Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI).


The Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility is a unique strategic asset to Navy operations in the Pacific. Between 1940 and 1943, miners dug 20 giant tanks into a solid basalt ridge outside Honolulu, then connected them by pipeline to the jetties at Pearl Harbor. It is one of the largest such facilities, containing 250 million gallons of fuel needed to power the Navy’s western range. The elevation of the site allows for gravity-assisted flow and its underground location is more difficult to reach in the event of enemy attack.





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