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Red Hill

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Red Hill

As a member of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, I am continuing to fight for the resources necessary to clean up, defuel and close the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility and relocate its fuel elsewhere. I also continue working with the rest of our Hawai‘i Congressional delegation, military leaders, federal, state and county officials and community organizations to address the immediate impacts of the drinking water crisis on Hawai‘i residents and support efforts to ensure long-term health and safety monitoring. I will work closely with military leaders to identify and fund strategic fuel storage capacity in other locations in the Indo-Pacific that will maintain a strong national defense without risk to our drinking water.

History of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility

Red Hill is an underground fuel storage facility on O‘ahu that the U.S. government built in secret during World War II. The Navy runs the facility, with support from the Defense Logistics Agency. There are 20 tanks capable of storing up to 12.5 million gallons of fuel each —a total of 250 million gallons.

For decades, state, local regulators and many in the public have been concerned about Red Hill because of documented leaks that date back to the facility’s construction in the 1940s. For example, in January 2014 about 27,000 gallons of jet fuel leaked from a fuel tank that fortunately did not compromise any of Hawaii’s drinking water even though the underground fuel tanks are located 100 feet above an aquifer that provides for 20 percent of O‘ahu’s drinking water and serves as the primary source of water for Honolulu.

In late November 2021, the Hawai‘i Department of Health (DOH) received complaints of a fuel or gasoline-like odor coming from the Navy’s water system. On December 1, 2021, DOH confirmed the presence of petroleum in the water. The fuel leak directly affected almost 100,000 military and civilian residents, sickening many with varying severities of physical ailments and displacing thousands from their homes.

At the request of the DOH, a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) conducted an Assessment of Chemical Exposures (ACE) survey to investigate and increase understanding of the potential health impacts on the civilian population affected by the contamination. CDC and ATSDR investigators surveyed civilians living in homes serviced by the Navy’s water system. The survey ended on February 10, 2022, and the results were published on May 27, 2022. Click here to review the ACE survey results and a one-page DOH fact sheet.


Closure Decision

On March 7, 2022, the Secretary of Defense announced that the military would permanently defuel and close Red Hill—a decision I support. The Department of Defense (DOD) will work closely with the State of Hawai‘i and other key stakeholders to ensure this is done in a safe and methodical way. Along with the other members of the Hawai‘i Congressional delegation, I am carefully overseeing this process to ensure this is done in a timely and safe manner.

In early 2022, the Navy hired an independent contractor to assess how to safely defuel Red Hill so it can be closed. The State of Hawai‘i is currently reviewing the contractor’s final recommendations. You can read the report for yourself here.

Prior to the DOD’s decision to close the facility, I co-introduced legislation with Congressman Kaiali'i Kahele to permanently shut down Red Hill. The measure would also require the Navy to comply with Governor Ige’s emergency order to suspend operations and defuel Red Hill, establish water treatment and testing facilities, reimburse the State of Hawai‘i and the Board of Water Supply for their costs related to this crisis and perform environmental remediation for all spills that occurred during the operation of the facility. In addition, in December 2021 Congress passed the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which included my amendment directing the military to conduct an assessment of possible alternatives to Red Hill, including consideration of sites outside of the state of Hawai‘i. The Secretary of Defense’s decision effectively achieves the goals of our legislation and my amendment.


Federal Appropriations and Authorizations

For the current Fiscal Year (FY) 2022, I worked closely with my House Appropriations Committee to provide some $736 million to support displaced servicemembers, civilians and families in Hawai‘i; federal and state responses to drinking water contamination; and carry out other activities as required under the State of Hawaii’s emergency order. These funds are in addition to the $403 million in emergency funding that I, along with the rest of the Hawai‘i Congressional delegation, secured in February 2022. To date, Congress has provided a total of over $1.1 billion to address the Red Hill crisis.

For FY 2023, I am supporting the President’s budget request for another $1 billion for Red Hill, but my Committee on Appropriations ultimately is proposing to spend $1.1 billion.

The FY 2023 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill includes another $100 million in funding to be used by the Navy and the Indo-Pacific Command to begin the planning and design for building new facilities to remove and relocate the fuel currently at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility. The FY 2023 Defense Appropriations bill proposes to create a $1 billion Red Hill Recovery Fund to fix, defuel and close Red Hill as safely and quickly as possible, continue to address the continuing health and other concerns of affected residents, and restore our aquifer. Additional provisions in the bill include provisions to improve the oversight of the military’s actions regarding Red Hill. The military would be required to submit quarterly reports to Congress on its actions to comply with the State of Hawaii’s regulatory rulings, address the individual health care needs of service members and their families that were affected by the crisis, improve water quality testing surrounding the facility, improve efforts to engage with the community, and move the fuel to other locations in the Indo-Pacific.
 
I recently voted to pass the Fiscal Year 2023 NDAA out of the full U.S. House, as did a majority of my colleagues. The measure includes Congressman Kahele’s and my requests to authorize the funding needed to continue efforts to close the facility. The Navy will also be required to issue a publicly available report on the status of how these funds are spent, and it must secure an independent review of how best to mitigate risks during the defueling the process. 
 
The potential long-term health impacts of this crisis remain one of my highest priorities. To address these concerns, this year’s NDAA also directs the government to track the long-term health implications of fuel leaks from Red Hill for members of the armed forces and their dependents. These actions must be done in coordination with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Hawai‘i Department of Health to ensure a holistic and unified approach that documents and ultimately address illnesses affecting service members, dependents and civilians.
Further, there are numerous provisions in this year’s NDAA that focus on the environmental aspect of this crisis. This includes a government study of the hydrogeology around Red Hill and an assessment of how best to address the water needs on O‘ahu and mitigate water shortages, including water treatment plants or the placement of a new drinking water shaft. The bill will also require the military to report quarterly on the progress towards installing sentinel and monitoring wells that will provide an early warning of fuel within the aquifer around Red Hill.

I remain in close contact with DOD to make sure the federal government fulfills its promises to our state and provides the funding needed to complete all aspects of the cleanup, defueling, closure and remediation of the Red Hill. We must do everything possible to protect our precious natural resources and safeguard access to safe drinking water for our Hawai‘i.

Resources from the Navy and Army

If you reside in housing served by the Navy’s Pearl Harbor water system and are concerned that your water has been contaminated or your health has been affected as a result of the Red Hill leaks, please call the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Information Line at 808-448-2570. You can also call my Honolulu office at 808-650-6688

For the latest water updates from the Navy, please visit https://www.cpf.navy.mil/JBPHH-Water-Updates/. For information about available resources and services offered by the Army, please visit  https://home.army.mil/hawaii/index.php/water.