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Draft agreement between EPA and Navy outlines tentative Red Hill defueling

Red Hill water Well Shaft NOT FUEL LINE
Seaman Chris Thomas/Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet
AIEA, Hawaii (Jan. 14, 2022) - Pipes waiting for installation at the Red Hill Well Shaft. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Christopher Thomas)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing its order to the Navy about how the Red Hill fuel storage facility should be shut down. The proposed administrative consent order was signed Tuesday.

The order stems from the Red Hill fuel leak in November 2021 that contaminated the drinking water of some 93,000 customers on the military’s drinking water system.

The EPA said it has done a series of inspections and investigations covering not only the fuel storage tanks, but the local system for drinking water, which supplies about 93,000 households.

Deficiencies include a lack of maintenance, safety training, and an insufficient number of trained operators, as well as problems with chemical storage.

Amy Miller, director of the EPAʻs Enforcement and Compliance branch, said the consent order will cover a broad range of concerns relating to public safety.

“This agreement has a scope of work that will give EPA oversight of the Navyʻs defueling enclosure of the Red Hill facilities, but it will also give us oversight over their drinking water system. And really put in place the measures to ensure that the Navy is taking steps to make the drinking water system resilient and that they're attuned to what is happening within the system," Miller said.

The order is not yet active while it goes through the public comment period, which is open through Feb. 6. There will be a public hearing on the order during the week of Jan. 16.

Meanwhile, the Honolulu Board of Water Supply said it was "extremely disappointed" with the details of the consent order.

"The 2023 Consent Order simply does not go far enough. The draft order does not establish a firm schedule for defueling and closure. It does not impose mandatory penalties for Navy noncompliance. It provides no meaningful opportunity for stakeholder and public input or any defined role for external subject matter experts," the BWS said in a statement.

The BWS said it was not consulted about the order and will provide detailed comments upon further review of the order.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Dec. 22, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at
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