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Congress spending bill has $403M for leaky Red Hill fuel tank facility and water contamination

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AP Photo/Susan Walsh
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HONOLULU — Hawaiʻi members of Congress said Monday a spending bill that must pass to avoid a government shutdown includes $403 million to address the crisis caused by the leaking of petroleum from a Navy fuel storage tank facility into Pearl Harbor drinking water.

The money incorporates $100 million to drain fuel from the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility. It also directs the Defense Department to comply with an emergency order from the state of Hawaiʻi to defuel the tanks. The military last week appealed Hawaiʻi’s order in both state and federal court.

The legislation includes $250 million to address drinking water contamination and $53 million in general fund operations now directed to Red Hill.

U.S. Rep. Ed Case said U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz led the effort to include the Red Hill funding by negotiating with the Biden administration and his Senate colleagues. Case said he contributed by securing agreement within the U.S. House and the House Appropriations Committee.

Schatz and Case, both Democrats, are members of the appropriations committees of their respective chambers.

“This bill funds defueling, and it establishes Congress’s position on Red Hill: the DOD must defuel and follow the state’s order immediately,” Schatz said in a statement.

Case said it's highly unusual for Congress to include new funding in a continuing resolution. He said doing so is reserved for “truly urgent matters that cannot await the normal appropriations process.”

Schatz said he is working with the Biden administration to secure additional funding in the president’s annual budget request and with the appropriations committee to include more money in an appropriations package expected to be taken up by Congress next month.

Nearly 6,000 people have received treatment from military medical personnel after drinking or washing with fuel-laced water. The Navy is paying for some 4,000 military families to stay in hotels while it tries to clean petroleum from its water system.

Separately, Navy spokesperson Rear Adm. Charlie Brown said the Navy will release to the public its investigation into the cause of the contamination after officials review the report. Brown said in a statement the initial command investigation was submitted to the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander on Jan. 14.

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