PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii — The Department of Health said on Friday that it conditionally approved the Joint Task Force Red Hill’s plan to defuel the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, according to a news release.
The Joint Task Force is still required to complete several steps before DOH will allow defueling to begin. DOH’s approval is contingent on the Joint Task Force answering DOH’s comments and questions, completing repairs to the Red Hill facility and pipelines, and submitting additional plans to remove fuel from the Red Hill underground storage tanks, surge tanks at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, and related pipelines.
DOH said it is giving incremental approval for each phase as the Navy submits different proposals to defuel Red Hill in order to speed up the process.
In October 2022, DOH approved the Navy’s first phase for defueling Red Hill. This allowed the Navy to remove fuel from Red Hill’s three pipelines, so that repairs could be conducted. Currently, the Department of Defense has completed almost all 253 required repairs, but DOH and the EPA have only conditionally approved 56 of them, according to the Joint Task Force-Red Hill’s latest dashboard.
According to the Navy’s latest plans, defueling the Red Hill storage tanks will start on Oct. 16, 2023. The process of removing 104 million gallons of fuel via gravity would be completed by Jan. 19, 2024. However, up to 400,000 gallons would remain in the tanks at the conclusion of this process and would still need to be removed. The Joint Task Force must submit an operational plan to remove this additional fuel to the DOH for approval.
On Dec. 6, 2021, the Department of Health issued an Emergency Order to defuel Red Hill. This order followed fuel leaks at Red Hill in May and November 2021 that contaminated the Navy’s water system, sickening many people.