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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reaffirms pledge to defuel Red Hill

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin holds a press conference on July 21, 2021, at the Pentagon.
Olivier Douliery
/
AFP via Getty Images
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin holds a press conference on July 21, 2021, at the Pentagon.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reiterated Thursday the Defense Department’s pledge to defuel the Red Hill fuel storage facility, but did not give a timeline for doing so.

Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Austin told lawmakers — including Sen. Mazie Hirono — that defueling Red Hill will require significant resources.

"We have allocated funds that will help us begin to address the critical components here going forward — the defueling process, remediation will, no doubt, carry a significant expense. I certainly hope that Congress will continue to support us as you have done to this point," Austin said.

Last month, President Biden unveiled his fiscal year 2023 budget proposal which calls for $1 billion in funding for Red Hill fuel contamination remediation.

However, the request does not include a breakdown of how that money would be spent.

Also this week, the U.S. Navy relieved the commanding officer of the Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center for Pearl Harbor in the wake of a fuel leak at the Red Hill fuel storage facility.

The Navy said Capt. Albert Lee Hornyak was removed Monday "due to a loss of confidence in his ability to perform his duties following a series of leadership and oversight failures at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility."

About 30 gallons of a "fuel and water mixture" leaked April 1 from a line connected to Tank 15 during maintenance work to remove water from the fuel tank, according to a press release.

Hornyak was also the commanding officer in November 2021 when fuel contaminated one of the Navy's drinking wells, forcing thousands of military residents out of their homes and into hotels to access clean drinking water.

Scott Kim is a news editor at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Contact him at skim@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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