HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Defense Department reported they will permanently shut down and defuel the Navy’s Red Hill fuel storage facility, which leaked petroleum into Pearl Harbor’s tap water in November 2021.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby discussed this update in a news conference on Monday, March 7. Hawaii Gov. David Ige and the Hawaii Department of Health also hosted a conference about the Navy’s Red Hill facility.

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After the petroleum leaked, the water connected to military housing at or near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam became contaminated, causing people to get sick and leave their homes.

Since then, operations at the Red Hill fuel facility were suspended in December 2021, and efforts to clean the contaminated water and restore safe drinking water have been underway.

“There will be challenges ahead, but make no mistake: Red Hill will be shut down.”

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz

The release and contamination of the water supply are currently under investigation. When that review is complete, Kirby said the Navy will publicly release that report.

Initially, the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) requested the Navy to shut down the Red Hill facility in 30 days. However, the DOH later reported the Navy violated that emergency order.

Now, Kirby stated that an assessment team is trying to figure out what it takes to defuel the Red Hill fuel facility. He added that once the site has been prepared for defueling safely, it could take around 12 months to fully defuel and close the facility.

Once the site is closed, Kirby stated that they will then begin to determine what the land could be used for going forward in an environmentally-safe way.

Statements from Hawaii lawmakers about the Pentagon’s decision to shut down the Red Hill fuel facility:

“In order to implement this decision, we’re going to have to provide additional resources and hold DoD’s feet to the fire through congressional oversight. I will continue to work with our federal and state partners to see this through,” stated U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz in a statement on March 7.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige also commented on the Pentagon shutting down the Red Hill facility:

“This is great news for the people of Hawaiʻi. Our national defense begins with the health and safety of our people, and there are better solutions for strategic fueling today than there were when the Red Hill storage facility was built. We look forward to working with the Navy to safely defuel and permanently close the storage facility,” said Gov. Ige in a statement on March 7.

Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole, chair of the Senate Committee on Health, applauded the Pentagon’s decision and said they can now begin to work with the Navy to address the effects the contamination crisis had on the community.

In a statement from the Honolulu City Council:

“The decision by the Biden Administration to permanently shut down the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility is what the Honolulu City Council has been fighting for, right alongside the community. Mahalo to Honolulu Board of Water Supply Manager and Chief Engineer Ernie Lau for his steadfast commitment to our water. We look forward to seeing how the U.S. Navy will continue to work with our residents, the Board of Water Supply, and elected officials to ensure the protection of our wai.”

Honolulu City Council