HONOLULU (KHON2) — On Wednesday, the Honolulu City Council (HCC) held a special meeting at 10 a.m. to discuss the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility and to have the first reading of Bill 48 which was introduced by council member Radiant Cordero and Chair and Presiding Officer Tommy Waters.
There is no greater resource that we must protect than our water,” said Waters.
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The eight present council members began their meeting listening to 35 testimonies from the public on Bill 48 and resolution 21-276.
According to HCC, Bill 48 would require any operator of underground storage tanks with a capacity of 100,000 gallons or more, to obtain a permit from the City. It further stipulates that no permit will be granted unless the applicant proves that the tank or tank system will not leak regulated substances into the environment.
Councilmember Ester Kia’aina introduced resolution 21-276 which urges the permanent removal and relocation of the U.S. Navy Red Hill Bulk Storage Facility underground storage tanks.
Hawaii Senator Kurt Fevella was the third testimony heard by the public on Wednesday and he said he supports Bill 48 and resolution 21-276.
“This is long overdue — this needs to stop,” said Fevella. “I have a meeting with the governor at 12:00 p.m. on prisons but I am going to bring this up.”
The Navy is calling this a crisis. This is beyond a crisis,” he added. This is a disaster. I’m going to ask the governor for a disaster proclamation.”
Another testimony came from Kau’i Burgess of Kamehameha Schools who asked the council members for mana’o — ideas — transparency of information. Private citizen and University of Hawai’i professor Candace Fujikane said the community has to remember what Red Hill was called before.
“It was first called ‘Kapukaki,’ which means countless Lehua blossoms,” said Fujikane. “I urge the council members to support Bill 48 and resolution 21-276.
Rhiannon Callahan, gave a remote testimony while nursing her child. She emphasized how important everyone’s health is, without it, she said you have nothing.
“We need to get control of our island and our water,” Callahan said. “Allowing them to poison us — I don’t think that is right.”
Finally, retired Army Reserve Colonel and 31-year veteran Ann Wright said the Navy currently has the capacity to store 16 million gallons of fuel on its ships.
“The Navy has 15 ships that could take the fuel tanks away,” Wright said. “We must shut it down now.”
It has been two weeks since the Red Hill military community was notified that a petroleum-like substance was detected in the water samples which were collected by the Navy.
Early last week, the Navy listed 11 communities that are affected by possible water contamination, however, the Army listed 24 military communities impacted by the water crisis in total as of Dec. 13. According to the Army, over 93,000 residents have been affected by this water crisis so far.
Those living with contaminated water have to conserve water by brushing their teeth with bottled water in hand or driving to a shower location listed by the Navy and filling up their water jugs.
Water distribution was established on Dec. 15 in Manana Housing in Pearl City and information was posted on the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam’s (JBPHH) website.
The Army has been proactive in sending out memorandums on Dec. 10 and another one on Dec. 11, authorizing military members, dependents and employees to evacuate their homes. Those living in these communities near Pearl Harbor to Aiea have the option to evaluate their homes until the water crisis is over.
To add to the public’s confusion, on Dec.13, the Honolulu Board of Water Supply (BWS) released its water sample results from Halawa Shaft, which tested negative for contamination. BWS officials said Halawa Shaft wells currently serve over 450,000 residents.
On Dec. 9, Hawai’i Senator Brian Schatz said in a press release that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should take the lead on Hawaii’s water crisis.
“The EPA must be the lead agency in the collection, testing, analysis and public communication for water quality of the Navy’s water system. EPA must take a more active role in addressing this crisis. We can’t afford another day of the Navy and state and county agencies disagreeing on the basic question of whether the drinking water is safe.
“We need a trusted independent agency with deep expertise and a mission of environmental protection to take over.”
Before going to recess, HCC Chair Waters confirmed that EPA was invited to Red Hill on Wednesday to give an assessment on the Navy’s Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility.