HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Navy says it plans to leave the tanks at Red Hill after removing the fuel from them. Officials say it is a safer option than having to take them out of the underground bunker.
The Navy has just submitted its plan to defuel Red Hill to the Department of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency. After removing about 100 million gallons of fuel from 20 large tanks, the Navy says the best option is to leave the empty tanks underground.
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“Based on the analysis that we’ve done, this is the quickest and safest alternative, and it’s going to minimize the impact to the environment and the community that surrounds Red Hill,” said Assistant Secretary of the Navy Meredith Berger.
The Navy says it Is looking at ways to clean and prep the tanks and continuously monitor them after they have been emptied. And, a more detailed plan addressing that will be submitted to the DOH and the EPA next month.
“There’s a whole course of action that’s set out and it is one that the Navy is committed to following to make sure that we are doing that in a way that is environmentally sound,” said Berger.
The Navy adds that there’s the possibility that the tanks can be used for something else. It is not clear what that would be but officials say they would get input and approval from the community.
“I think what’s key is getting that out to the community there are a lot of good ideas out there that would definitely, I think, help the community,” said Rear Adm. Steve Barnett, Navy Region Hawaii Commander.
Something that is also not clear is how they will remove the soil that has been contaminated by fuel. The Navy says it is looking at different technologies.
“I would tell you there is a commitment, the number one priority is to remediate and remove any of the contamination in the soil,” said Capt. Cameron Geertsema, NAVFACHawaii Commanding Officer.
Whatever they decide to do, the Navy says it will get approval from the other agencies.
“We’ll be doing those lock step with our regulators, The DOH and the EPA. So we’ll be following their guidance and the counsel on it,” said Barnett.
DOH released a statement saying, “Any closure plan must guarantee that the Navy will never reuse the Red Hill tanks for fuel or for other substances that threaten our aquifer.”
EPA also sent a statement saying it intends to listen to public input as they develop EPA comments on the Closure Plan.
Plans to close down Red Hill are in accordance with the DOH’s May 6 Emergency Order.
To read the full Red Hill Tank Closure Plan, click here.
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The closure plan was followed after the Navy took action in their unpacking plan — a process of safely defueling Red Hill.