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Honolulu City Council Adopts Resolution Rejecting Red Hill Plans

Commander, Navy Installations Command

The Honolulu City Council is urging the state Department of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency to reject a plan for the U.S. Navy's Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility.

Earlier today, the Council adopted a resolution that urges the agencies to turn down the Navy's plan to keep its existing single wall tanks. It also requests the DOH and EPA reject the findings of an evaluation report of the facility.

Council members heard concerns about the tanks location above O?ahu's main aquifer, and what will happen in the event of a future leak.

"The single wall option is really not a good option," said Ernie Lau, Manager and Chief Engineer for the Board of Water Supply. "To maintain the status quo, what they're doing right now, I think is too risky for our future when it comes to our water supply."

"And this is a precious water supply, that once contaminated with fuel, and there's a tremendous amount of fuel there at Red Hill, it will be very difficult or nearly impossible to address and clean up the situation."

Representatives from the Navy say an existing agreement with the DOH and EPA is working. And the resolution could complicate matters.

"We have an Administrative Order on Consent that we comply with, and that we work with regulators," said Captain Marc Delao, the Navy's Regional Engineer.

"That AOC works. I also want to highlight that we have some fears in terms of portions of this resolution that may be inconsistent with this carefully negotiated AOC. And I would contend that intervening with the AOC could complicate the ongoing discussions and the process that we have between the Navy and the regulators."

In a press release, the Navy says it is concerned the resolution relies on inaccurate information.

Captain Delao says the Navy understands how important the aquifer is, and it is committed to improving and investing in the site's infrastructure.

But councilmembers all agreed O?ahu's water supply is cruial, and unanimously adopted the resolution.

In 2014, the Navy reported a leak of up to 27,000 gallons of jet fuel at the Red Hill facility. Crews later found a number of small holes and defects in a fuel tank. Although tests later revealed drinking water was safe at the site, it has raised concerns about the vulnerability of an aquifer that serves a majority of Honolulu.

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at charlow@hawaiipublicradio.org or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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