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Defense Official Addresses Progress on Hawaii Fuel Facility Closure

One year ago this month, families on Oahu, Hawaii, faced a crisis when fuel spills at Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility contaminated the Navy's drinking water system.

A man speaks from a podium.
Press Briefing
Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder conducts a press briefing at the Pentagon, Nov. 15, 2022.
Photo By: Navy Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Alexander Kubitza
VIRIN: 221115-D-PM193-3029

Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, who briefed the media at the Pentagon today, addressed this and other topics. 

"The Department of Defense recognizes that the 2021 incidents at Red Hill created a trust deficit between the DOD and the people of Hawaii, and that it's incumbent upon the department to earn back that trust," he said. 

On March 7, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J Austin III, after close consultation with senior civilian and military leaders, directed the defueling and permanent closure of the Red Hill facility, he said.

A man grips a valve handle on a large pipe.
Adjusting the Flow
A Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command contractor adjusts the flow of a granular activated carbon filter as part of real-time monitoring at Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility on Oahu, Hawaii, April 18, 2022.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Mar’Queon A. D. Tramble
VIRIN: 220418-N-TO792-1004M

Since then, the department has stood up a joint task force to focus on the safe and expeditious defueling of Red Hill, he said. JTF Red Hill recently completed a critical preliminary step in the defueling process, from Oct. 25 to Nov. 3, removing over a million gallons of fuel from the facility's fuel pipelines. The operation, known as unpacking, concluded without any issues involving the handling, transport or storage of the fuel.  

The next phase includes performing all necessary repairs, modifications and enhancements to the Red Hill infrastructure to reduce risk during defueling, he said. 

JTF Red Hill is currently on track to complete defueling by June 2024, Ryder said. The JTF will continue to work with the Hawaii Department of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency to find ways to safely reduce and expedite the defueling timeline.

Two mean wearing hardhats stand near pipes that run down a long tunnel.
Routine Inspection
Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command contractors perform a routine inspection on a water pipe that connects to a granular activated carbon system at a well of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility on Oahu, Hawaii, April 11, 2022. The Navy continues to work with federal, state and local organizations to support families and residents, conduct long-term monitoring of the Navy water system, and work toward remediating the Red Hill facility and the surrounding area.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Mar’Queon A. D. Tramble
VIRIN: 220411-N-TO792-1017

On Nov. 1, the Navy announced its plans to accomplish the permanent closure of the bulk storage facility. Following Hawaii Department of Health approval, the Navy will commence fuel tank closures as early as possible once the joint task force completes the defueling process, he said. 

It's currently estimated that the facility closure process will take three years to complete, he said. As the Navy moves forward, it will work in lockstep with the local community and closely coordinate with the Hawaii Department of Health to finalize the closure plan and determine a potential beneficial nonfuel reuse for the Red Hill facility site.  

"Austin and senior leaders at DOD are committed to ensuring that the department follows through on its promise of increased transparency and coordination with military families and the citizens of Hawaii, Ryder said. "As the secretary has said previously, defueling and closing Red Hill is the right thing to do for our service members, our families, the people of Hawaii, the environment and our national security."

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