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.
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.
Prior to the DOD’s decision, 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, 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.
For the current Fiscal Year 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 Fiscal Year 2023, I am supporting the President’s budget request for another $1 billion for Red Hill. This is a necessary further down payment to ensure the orderly and timely closure of the fuel storage facility. As Congress continues its work on appropriations for the coming fiscal year,
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.