HONOLULU (KHON2) – Officials rejected the U.S. Navy’s plan to safeguard Oahu’s drinking water near Red Hill from possible contamination from underground fuel tanks used in World War II.

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Hawai‘i Department of Health vocalized their disapproval of the Navy’s Tank Upgrade Alternative and Release Detection Document stating the proposal failed to demonstrate how it will prevent and mitigate future fuel releases over Oahu’s primary drinking water aquifer.

“This is the latest example of how the Navy does not take the protection of Oahu’s drinking
water seriously” said Jodi Malinoski, Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi Policy Advocate. “It’s been 5 years
and still the Navy can’t provide a meaningful plan to protect our water from their antiquated
tanks. Maybe that is because the tanks can’t be adequately upgraded, which means they should
be retired.”

Health officials felt the plan lacked “detail, clarity, rationale and justification” claiming that the Navy chose the least expensive and least protective option.

The plan was originally submitted to the regulatory agencies on Sept. 9, 2019.

The proposal even included developing a “double-wall equivalency” by applying a thin epoxy coating to the inside of the tanks. EPA and DOH officials responded to the idea saying it does not address backside corrosion concerns on the steel liner. Officials also worried that such a plan could not be realistically implemented by the 2037 deadline set for upgrading the tanks.

“We appreciate the Department of Health and EPA for responding to community concerns and
rejecting this inadequate plan,” says Malinoski. “Of the 400 public comments submitted, nearly
half are asking for relocation of the Navy’s fuel away from O‘ahu’s drinking water. There are
better options available.”

Officials say the Red Hill facility houses 20 underground storage tanks that hold over 200 million gallons of fuel only 100 feet above the primary aquifer. The aquifer serves community members from Moanalua to Maunalua.

The Navy has 30 days to address concerns with their plan and resubmit an amended proposal for further review.

DOH will host a virtual meeting via Zoom of the Legislative Task Force on Underground Storage Tanks to allow members of the public to send in their concerns. All comments must be submitted via writing.

The virtual meeting is expected to be held on Friday Oct. 30, 2020 at 1 p.m. .

For more information about the meeting including how to join, click here.

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