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Defense Secretary Calls for Hawaii Facility to Be Shut Down

March 7, 2022 | BY Terri Moon Cronk , DOD News

The Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Oahu, Hawaii, is slated to be de-fueled and permanently closed, Pentagon spokesman John F. Kirby said today. 

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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J.  Austin III issued a statement today that directs the Navy secretary, in coordination with the commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, to take all steps necessary to de-fuel and permanently close the facility, the spokesman said. 

This action follows a November 2021 leak and resulting contamination. Leaders from across the Defense Department, the Navy and Indo-Pacom remain very focused on this issue and "the impact that it's had on families and communities and our responsibilities in both national security and being good stewards of our resources in the environment," Kirby said. 

Throughout this process, DOD's approach has been guided by a commitment to protect the population, the environment and the security of the country, he noted. As the secretary outlined in his direction to the Department of the Navy, DOD launched a thorough review of the facility's long-term work, which is grounded in analysis and completely aligned with our focus, he added.  

A woman and four men wear hard hats inside a facility.
Tour Talk
Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks tours Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility with senior Naval leadership on Oahu, Hawaii, Dec. 14, 2021.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Brittany A. Chase, DOD
VIRIN: 211214-D-BM568-1334
People wear hard hats stand inside a facility.
Red Hill Tour
Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks tours Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility with senior Naval leadership on Oahu, Hawaii, Dec. 14, 2021.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Brittany A. Chase, DOD
VIRIN: 211214-D-BM568-1449


As part of the decision and aligned with national security, the facility will refuel and reposition the fuel to land and afloat locations, Kirby said.  

"This will meet our national security objectives by better positioning the United States to meet future challenges in the Pacific region, while ensuring environmental stewardship and protecting the population," the spokesman said. "Secondly, [as the] secretary noted, we're going to be able to take care of our people in the community. We are committed to mitigating the impacts of the November incident, and we are restoring safe drinking water to affected residents [by] providing best-in-class sampling and testing to ensure the continued safety of the drinking water."  Finally, Kirby added that the effort will complete "environmental mitigation efforts for the Red Hill drinking water well in any other impacted areas and continue to engage the community on land use." 

Also, Kirby said, a command investigation into the facility's releases and contamination of the water supply will take place. When that review is complete, the Navy will publicly release and report findings and continue to work closely with the Department of Health and the state of Hawaii about pursuing follow-on actions to ensure work continues, he said.  

People wearing hard hands walk in a confined space underground.
Fuel Facility Tour
Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks tours Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility with senior Navy leadership on Oahu, Hawaii, Dec. 14, 2021.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Brittany A. Chase, DOD
VIRIN: 211214-D-BM568-1420

"[The] secretary's decision is not considered by the department to be some sort of quick fix," Kirby said. "We have work to do. We know that across the enterprise with elected officials from Hawaii and local organizations and, of course, with our military families -- many of whom have suffered as a result of that leak in that contamination, we're going to stay as fully transparent on this work as we can, [and] we're going to continue to [provide] updates as actions are taken." 

Kirby said the decision by the secretary marks a significant first step in the path forward to rectify the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility situation.