State health department will reject Navy’s Red Hill resupply plan

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) — The state Department of Health said it would reject the Navy’s plan to empty Red Hill’s underground fuel storage tanks, citing a lack of details.

The Navy said it plans to safely remove 104 million gallons from Red Hill tanks by the end of 2024.

But Deputy Health Department Director Kathleen Ho, who is an environmental lawyer, told Hawaii News Now exclusively that she cannot predict how long the refueling will take or if it can be done more quickly.

She said that’s because the Navy’s resupply plan lacks key details on how it will be done.

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“It’s hard to say. The refueling plan itself lacked so much detail,” Ho said. refueling because this detail was missing.”

Ho said one of the details he needed to know was how much fuel was in the pipelines from Red Hill to Pearl Harbor — and how the crews took fuel from the pipelines and tanks themselves.

“They say they’re going to unpack the lines, but we don’t know how they’re going to unpack the lines and the true amount of fuel that’s in the line,” Ho said.

Hawaii News Now asked Ho if the current schedule is acceptable.

“I want to impress on the Navy and everyone else that the Navy really should feel the sense of urgency that we feel. That every moment that fuel is left in the pipeline and in the tanks could lead to disaster,” said said Ho.

“DoD understands that it will not receive final DOH approval for this refueling plan until it provides DOH with an updated plan incorporating all relevant additional information and providing fidelity on its milestones and general timelines,” the Department of Defense said in its plan.

“We look forward to dialogue, discussion and feedback with the DOH as we move forward to clear Red Hill safely and quickly,” he added.

Critics say the navy should be able to safely refuel faster after spills last year tainted the navy’s water system and now threaten public water supplies.

“We want it now. This is the US Navy we’re talking about. If they wanted to do this, if they wanted to speed up this process, they could do it,” said state Rep. Sonny Ganden (D-Kalihi Kai, Pearl Harbor, Halawa Valley).

“When you really look at the reports, it looks like it’s going to be even longer than that,” added Melodie Ajuda, co-chair of the Hawaii Democratic Party’s environmental caucus.

“A lot more details, a lot more repairs to do. I think it will take more like six years before that is accomplished.

The Navy’s own internal investigation admitted that a series of catastrophic failures at Red Hill had caused the crisis.

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