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Commission on Water Resource Management supports Red Hill defueling, creates investigation team

military collects water samply pearl harbor hickam 121121
Tech. Sgt. Nick Wilson/Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet
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Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) collects a water sample at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on Dec. 11, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nick Wilson)

The Commission on Water Resource Management expressed its support for the state emergency order requiring the Navy to defuel its Red Hill fuel storage facility.

The commission also voted to create a permitted interaction group, or PIG, to investigate the crisis and make recommendations as to what actions the commission can and should take to protect Oʻahu’s aquifer.

The seven-member commission manages the State Water Code and is charged with protecting Hawaiʻi’s water resources.

At a briefing on Friday, it heard from state Department of Health officials and the Navy on the status of the cleanup of the Navy’s fuel-contaminated water system.

Suzanne Case, chairperson of the commission and chair of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, said Hawaiʻi law limits what the commission itself can do, thereby making the PIG necessary to further investigate the situation.

"Because we’re a Sunshine body we can’t have meetings out of this meeting. We cannot talk to each other except for limited individual conversations, except in this statutorily-authorized permitted interaction group structure," Case said.

Among the issues the PIG will be examining are whether any water use permits granted to the Navy should be modified; determining what groundwater monitoring model will be used to enforce its water use permits to the Navy; ensuring that the commission is a part of any discussions on the future of the Red Hill facility; guaranteeing that all agreed-upon water sampling is carried out.

Members also unanimously approved a series of statements that highlighted the commission’s support for the removal of fuel from the Red Hill storage tanks — and its commitment to helping alleviate the crisis in accordance with its legal mandate.

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