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Red Hill Fuel Storage Facility Update

Wayne Yoshioka

The Navy provided an update on its underground fuel storage tanks at Red Hill today.



Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Rear Admiral Brian Fort, commander, Navy-Region Hawai'i

 Commander of Navy Region-Hawai’i, Rear Admiral Brian Fort, told members of the Fuel Tank Advisory Committee that the 20 underground storage tanks at Red Hill -- each 250 feet tall and 100 feet in diameter -- do not pose a threat to O’ahu’s main source of drinking water.


“Our drinking water continues to be safe. And we are absolutely committed to keeping it safe.  The Navy continues to modernize Red Hill and, as a fact, since 2006 we’ve invested more than a quarter of a billion dollars to modernize and update the facility.”


Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Navy Capt Marc Delao, regional engineer

Captain Marc Delao, Navy Pacific Commander and Regional Engineer, says 4 tanks are currently being upgraded and every square inch of each tank is inspected.


“Try to, in your mind’s eye, try to visualize being in scaffolding or a basket on the side of a large tank with a scanning device, almost like a ultrasound kind of thing.  You’re pressing up against the tank and you’re trying to get a sense of the back side of that steep steel – and it’s going to give you insight – as to whether what you’re looking at   needs to be repaired or not.”


Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Ernie Lau, Honolulu Board of Water Supply manager and chief engineer

Delao says one-foot square metal pieces were cut out from the top, mid-section and bottom of Tank number 14.  Ten samples – called coupons -- identified five areas requiring repairs and were sent to a laboratory in Kentucky for analysis.   But, Honolulu Board of Water Supply chief engineer, Ernie Lau, says the number and size of the samples are not mathematically or scientifically defensible.


“So ten square feet sample out of 70-thousand square feet in one tank.  Out of the 10 samples, five required repair.  I went to public school, so five out of ten or fifty percent of the samples required repair and if I extrapolated that to 70-thousand square feet of tank surface.  I wanna be very careful.  Is that implying that, maybe, 50 percent of the tank needs repair.”


Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Keith Kawaoka, Fuel Tank Advisory Committee chair and deputy director of state Department of Health

Lau requested the laboratory data for independent analysis.  The Navy also announced it wants to do a pilot study on one tank.  The inside will be coated with epoxy and testing and monitoring will be done for all 20 tanks.  Committee chair, Deputy State Department of Health Director, Keith Kawaoka, then attempted to adjourn the meeting.


“Public comment period, I’m sorry, we’re out of time.”


Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Alison Bhattacharyya

But, testifiers protested and were allowed 3 minutes each.  Alison Bhattacharyya, like most testifiers, directed her comments at the Navy.


“You can get rid of the stockpile of fuel because of whatever contingency that you’re planning for is not as important as our own health and safety of our water supply on O’ahu.  That is paramount.”


For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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