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Navy’s Red Hill defueling plan lacks 'substance, specific detail and dates,' health officials say

SECNAV Carlos Del Toro  Tours Red Hill underground fuel storage facility
Capt. Jereal Dorsey/Office of the Secretary of the Navy
Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro is shown some of the items highlighted in the third-party assessment of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Hawaiʻi on Jun. 13, 2022. (U.S. Navy Photo by Capt. Jereal Dorsey)

The state Department of Health has rejected the U.S. Navy’s defueling plan for the Red Hill fuel storage facility, saying the plan lacks detail.

“The highly anticipated defueling plan was disappointing,” DOH Deputy Director for Environmental Health Kathleen Ho said during a joint information session Tuesday meeting. “It lacked substance, specific detail and dates.”

Ho said the plan lacks detail and the ability for the health department to have oversight throughout this process, and missed key information requested in the emergency order that was handed down.

“The emergency order set forth a minimum of seven elements that the defueling plan must address,” Ho said. “The submitted plan did not completely address any of these elements."

The state Senate Committee on Health and the House Committee on Health, Human Services and Homelessness hosted a joint informational briefing on the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility spill investigations and the Navy’s defueling plan on Tuesday.

navy red hill.JPG
Hawaiʻi State Senate
Rear Adm. Christopher Cavanaugh, Rear Adm. Dean VanderLay and Rear Adm. Stephen Barnett, the commander of Navy Region Hawaiʻi, speak to state legislators about the Red Hill defueling plan on July 19, 2022.

The Navy’s five-phase plan requires various repairs, supplies and contracting before defueling can begin.

Navy Region Hawaiʻi Commander Rear Adm. Stephen Barnett said the June submission was meant as a “framework.” A more detailed plan is anticipated in the coming months, and as phases finish.

“The intention is not to delay the defueling,” Barnett said. “I understand your concern, but the intent was to have a framework and then as we go through each individual item, provide that as we get through, as we complete those items to kind of supplement the framework, to give a complete document at the end.”

During the meeting, lawmakers were concerned with the Navy's lack of transparency.

The Navy has taken responsibility for the fuel spill, and pointed to human error, bad data and aging facilities. The earliest defueling can begin is the end of 2024, but that’s expected to be pushed back, with supply chain delays.

—— Click here to read the Red Hill defueling plan ——

Sabrina Bodon is Hawaiʻi Public Radio's government reporter. Contact her at sbodon@hawaiipublicradio.org or 808-792-8252.
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