HONOLULU (KHON2) — In a virtual hearing, the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed that there are eight Navy fuel tanks that have not been inspected for over 20 years.
The hearing was held through Zoom on Dec. 20, on an emergency order demanding the Navy to suspend all activity at Red Hill. On Dec. 7, the Department of Navy informed DOH that it would contest the order.
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Board of Water Supply’s lawyer Ella Foley Gannon gave an opening statement.
Thousands of service member families drank from that water,” Gannon said. “They had to move from their homes, their schools were shut down and their wells had to shut down. My client has been directly damaged by this. This is real damage and it’s happening today.”
“That is an imminent threat to the public health of the people and environment of Oahu, ” she added.
Also, at the virtual hearing asking the Navy officials some questions on corrosion protection was the Department of Health’s Deputy Attorney General Wade Hargrove III.
“Do the tanks at Red Hill have corrosion protection?” asked Hargrove III.
A spokesperson from the Department of Health said “No.”
According to the Navy, 10 coupons or steel plates were removed from the Navy’s contaminated steel water tanks and sent to a laboratory on the mainland for further analysis. The Navy determined that nine out of 10 coupons contained brownish reddish corrosion on its back.
The DOH believes there were gaps between the steel plates and the concrete that was within the steel tank structures which created the corrosion found on the steel tanks.
The Navy said it cannot accurately determine the thickness of steel and where repairs are needed. However, moisture was noted on the backside of the steel coupons or the concrete structure with six to ten coupon locations.
However, the evidence of carbonation of the concrete, presence of chlorides in the corrosion products and structure to electrolyte corrosion potential readings all corroborate that regions of the tank were actively corroding, according to the Navy.
The DOH discussed the Red Hill Facility’s Tank Inspection, Repair and Maintenance (TIRM) schedule.
“No, the Navy has not kept that schedule that they gave us in 2017,” DOH’s spokesperson said. According to DOH, there were delays in the TIRM schedule.
Highlighted in yellow on a schedule provided by the DOH, were eight Navy tanks that are active but have not been inspected for over 20 years.
Dave Day lead the virtual hearing floor and asked what the numbers on the Navy’s inspection schedule meant. DOH’s spokesperson said the numbers in the right column determine when the tank has been last inspected. For tank three, it was last inspected 38 years ago.
DOH also did a statistical analysis to assess the level of risk the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility may pose to the surrounding groundwater.
However, the Navy does not agree with the assessment.
In a response to the DOH’s concrete gap statement, the U.S. Navy’s Senior Associate General Counsel Jon McKay said injected pressurized grouts were inserted into the concrete of each steel tank when it was created.
The Navy’s Deputy Assistant Secretary James Balocki testified that the emergency order to remove the fuel from the Red Hill tanks does not rise to the situation at hand. Balocki said a pump and treat process, which utilizes two industrial-size water filters are treating the water. And they are remedying the issue by providing affected residents with temporary housing and clean water supply.
Balocki said the commander of the Pacific Fleet has established an investigation and will not resume operation of the Red Hill storage facility until the water is tested and meets EPA standards.
The Navy said it could establish a long-term risk management plan at Red Hill by collaborating with the DOH, without having to decommission the fuel tanks.
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To view the full emergency order click here.