New Regulations for Red Hill Fuel Tanks Still Give Navy 20 Years to Comply

Media Contact: Marti Townsend or 808-372-1314

New Regulations for Red Hill Fuel Tanks Still Give Navy 20 Years to Comply
Majority of testimony demands Navy upgrade sooner

Today, the Hawaiʻi Department of Health held a public hearing on new regulations for underground storage tanks including the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility. Testimony at the hearing consistently called on the Health Department to shorten the length of time to upgrade the tanks from 20 years to 10 years.

Among the dozen people who testified against regulations, Jun Shin said, “I am 18 years old. In 20 years, I will be 38. I cannot wait that long for water security.”

The Health Department was ordered by the First Circuit Court to draft new regulations by July 15, 2018 because the court found that the agency had exempted the Navy’s Red Hill tanks without proper statutory authority to do so.

“If these tanks had not been exempted, then we would not be in this situation,” said Nathan Yuen in his testimony against the proposed regulations.

The Red Hill fuel tanks pose a uniquely high risk to public health because it stores 225 million gallons of jet fuel 100 feet above the primary groundwater aquifer. This aquifer supplies drinking water for a quarter of Oʻahu’s population from Hālawa to Hawaiʻi Kai. According to Navy documents, at least 200,000 gallons of fuel has leaked from the facility since it was built in 1943. In 2014, 27,000 gallons of jet fuel leaked from Red Hill and has not been cleaned up.

“The Health Department is too cozy with the Navy in our opinion,” said Marti Townsend, Director for the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi after the hearing. “These proposed rules are just the latest example of how the Health Department lets the Navy slide on public health protections, instead of holding the Navy to higher standards.”

In 2008, the Hawaiʻi Department of Health raised the level of allowable contamination specifically in waters beneath Red Hill for chemicals associated to the jet fuel stored in the facility. (1) For everywhere else in Hawaiʻi the standard is nothing over 100 parts per billion of diesel fuel is allowed in water. At Red Hill, the level is 4,500 parts per billion; a level that has been violated on multiple occasions since the last spill. (2)

In 2016, the Health Department approved the Navy’s request to reduce the number of chemicals of potential concern to be tested for in groundwater sampling—from 70 chemicals to 12. (3)

Today, after years of illegally exempting the tanks, the Health Department is proposing regulations that would give the Navy even more time to bring the Red Hill fuel tanks into compliance with the standards already met by most other underground storage tanks.

“Because of the risk to our children’s water supply, the Red Hill facility should be strictly regulated to never leak into the environment,” added Townsend.

The deadline for public comments on the proposed rules is June 5, 2018. More information on the proposed rules and how to submit comments can be found online  here.

(1) “Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, Final Groundwater Protection Plan,” U.S. Navy, January 2008
(2) “Groundwater Contamination underneath Red Hill Tanks (RHMW02) as of January 2016,” Honolulu Board of Water Supply
(3) “Chemicals of Potential Concern (COPCs) Recommendations Fuel Additives, Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Fuel Facility,” U.S. EPA, July 2016