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Speeches & Testimony


Speeches & Testimony

Introduction of Red Hill Health Impact Act

Mr. Speaker,

I rise today to introduce the Red Hill Health Impact Act, a crucial piece of legislation to address the health implications of the recent fuel spill at our military's Red Hill 
Underground Fuel Facility above Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

My bill, which I jointly introduce with my Hawaii colleagues, Senators Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono and Congresswoman Jill Tokuda, aims to protect the health of individuals affected by that inexcusable incident, particularly those who lived or worked in a residence or other building served by the water system at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-
Hickam (JBPHH).

Red Hill is unlike any other bulk fuel storage facility in the world. Built during World War II, its twenty underground tanks have the capacity to store up to 250 million gallons of fuel. But it is constructed and was operated at a location immediately above the main aquifer for the City and County of Honolulu that provides water to hundreds of thousands of Hawaii residents, servicemembers and visitors.

Although the community has raised concerns about these tanks for many years, in 2021 an estimated 20,000 gallons of fuel leaked from one of the tanks into the aquifer. The contaminated water was then withdrawn from the aquifer and fed into the JBPHH and distributed to thousands of mostly-but-not-exclusively military homes, offices and businesses. Many became ill as a direct result, and many more fear for longer term health impacts not immediately apparent.

Though the Secretary of Defense has since ordered the defueling and decommissioning of Red Hill, a process now underway, the Red Hill incident has had a profound impact on the lives not only of the directly affected individuals and families, but the Hawaii community at large. The contamination of Oahu's main water aquifer has raised persistent concerns about the potential long-term health implications to exposed individuals.

Our Red Hill Health Impact Act takes essential steps to address these concerns and ensure that impacted individuals receive the support and services they need over time. One of its primary provisions is establishing a registry where concerned individuals can sign up to facilitate outreach and collect comprehensive data on the health implications of exposure to petroleum-contaminated water. This registry will provide invaluable information and allow us to identify additional research needs to better understand the effects of such contamination on our health. The bill further calls for an epidemiological study that will assess potential health implications for impacted individuals over at least twenty years. This study will provide us with critical insights into the long-term health effects of exposure to petroleum-contaminated water and enable us to develop targeted interventions and support systems to mitigate any adverse health outcomes for those affected.

To ensure transparency and accountability, the Red Hill Health Impact Act requires annual reports on the study and its findings to be provided to the appropriate Congressional committees, enrolled members and the public. Open communication and access to information are paramount in addressing the concerns and needs of the impacted 
individuals and the broader community.

It is our duty to ensure that those affected by this incident are not left to face their health concerns alone after the immediate crisis passes and Red Hill closes. I therefore urge my colleagues to support the Red Hill Health Impact Act, thus prioritizing the well-being of the impacted individuals and recognizing the lasting impact the Red Hill 
incident has had and may have on their lives.