Navy agrees to minimize threat of future leaks from Red Hill fuel tanks

Measures are being taken to ensure no more fuel leaks happen at Red Hill.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Health have reached a proposed agreement with the U.S. Navy over its fuel storage tanks near Pearl Harbor, where 27,000 gallons of jet fuel leaked from underground storage tanks last year.

Those tanks have a total 250-million gallon capacity and officials want to make sure it never happens again.

“The agreement outlines a whole set of environmental protective measures, operation and maintenance procedures to ensure that the Red Hill tanks will be protective of those ground water resources, and yet also allow the Navy to continue to use the tanks as part of their national defense mission,” said Dean Higuchi of the EPA.

A feasibility study, to be submitted within two years, will look at a range of tank upgrade options that could be implemented. Each of the massive underground storage tanks that are in service will be upgraded in phases over the following 20 years.

In the meantime, the Navy will double the frequency of its tank tightness testing from biennial to annual. Costs of the upgrades are likely to run into the tens of millions of dollars, with better estimates available once the feasibility study is completed.

Additional groundwater monitoring wells may be installed between the Red Hill tanks and the Honolulu Board of Water Supply’s drinking water wells.

Eighteen of the Red Hill fuel storage tanks are currently active, and two are not in use.

The Board of Water Supply is reviewing the agreement and will be submitting its comments and concerns. “We are committed to protecting our groundwater aquifers and take seriously anything that could impact our ability to provide quality drinking water to meet Oahu’s needs,” said Ernest Lau, manager and chief engineer. “Our review to date already finds a lack of opportunities for stakeholders and the public to participate in the design and implementation of the additional studies and work being specified under the agreement.”

The proposed agreement will be available for comment for a period of 30 days until July 1. Based on feedback, the EPA and DOH can either sign off on the plan, seek to modify it or take other action based on any new information and comments from the public.

A public meeting to discuss it will be held on Thursday, June 18, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Moanalua Middle School’s cafeteria.

To view the proposal, get more information and submit comments, visit the EPA’s website and the state Department of Health.

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