HONOLULU (KHON2) — Disappointing and lacking substance, that is how the Hawaii State Department of Health Deputy Director for Environmental Health Kathleen Ho described the Navy’s plan to empty the tanks at the Red Hill fuel storage facility.
The Navy said it planned to complete the defueling in five phases, which include repairs of the Red Hill facility in order for the defueling to begin, executing contracts for the repairs, and training Navy personnel about the process. But before any action could begin, the Navy needs the DOH’s approval of its plan, which the Navy currently does not have.
Ho said, “The Department of Health does not approve the current defueling plan. The highly anticipated defueling plan was disappointing. It lacked substance, specific details and dates.”
The Navy’s Rear Adm. Stephen Barnett said they will present an updated plan by August. He said some of the repairs that are needed at the Red Hill Facility are not yet designed, therefore those were not included in the initial plan presented to the DOH.
Barnett said, “The intent was to have a framework and then as we go through each individual, each individual item provide that as we get through, complete those items, supplement the framework to give a complete document at the end.”
The Navy said some of the actions it is taking include monitoring the soil vapor, this helps keep track of the natural decay of fuel on soil and rocks. The Navy also added more monitoring wells, that check for water contamination.
Rear Adm. Dean VanderLey said, “These sentinel wells are planned to be strategically placed between Red Hill and the board of water supply wells and the Navy Aiea Halawa well to provide early warning if any contamination ever started to migrate in those directions.”
Lawmakers remain skeptical about the Navy’s timeline to defuel and transparency.
Senator Bennette Misalucha questioned the Navy about a video showing fuel spilling non-stop in November. The military has not officially released that video to the public.
Misalucha asked, “Can you address the video issue? Why was it not released even though, my understanding this was actually part of your investigation?”
Read Adm. Christopher Cavanaugh responded, “The video was known to the investigation team. It is referenced in the investigation. It is part of the closures to the investigation which are undergoing a released process but the main body of the investigation was released first.”
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The Navy said it plans to complete the fuel removal at Red Hill by December 2024.