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Emptying The Navy’s Red Hill Jet Fuel Tanks Need Not Take Two Years

Above photo: Fuel Trucks That Can Move 100 million gallons of jet fuel from Red Hill in 27 days.

27 days instead!

Ten days ago, late on a Friday afternoon, May 27, 2022, the contractor’s assessment of the repairs needed in the US Navy’s Red Hill Jet Fuel Storage Area was delivered to the Hawai’i Department of Health.  The redacted report made available to the public shed light on how badly managed and maintained the massive 80-year-old, 20 storage tank, 250 million gallon facility located a mere 100 feet above Honolulu’s water supply, had become.

In fact, according to the report, the November 2021 jet fuel leak that went into Pearl Harbor’s residential Red Hill drinking water well was just one of many dangerous time bombs in the facility waiting to happen.  The $1.45 million Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger, Inc. contracted report underscores that there were many “near misses”  with potentially even greater disasters than the May and November 2021 leaks/spills from the large jet fuel tank system.

Prior to the November 2021 leak, as testimony revealed in the February 2021 Contested Hearing on Red Hill, earlier studies by the Navy itself had estimated that the Red Hill tanks had a 27.6% chance of leaking between 1,000 and 30,000 gallons in the next year (2022), 80.1% in the next five years, 96% in the next ten years, and a 99.8% chance in the next 20 years.  Eight active jet fuel tanks have not been inspected for over 20 years and tank three was last inspected 38 years ago.

The Navy’s own contractors came up with over 200 recommendations for repair work to be done on the Red Hill tanks and 3.5-mile pipe system before defueling the giant, partially-filled tanks can begin and would take TWO years. 

The cost annex that detailed the undoubtedly hundreds of millions of dollars needed to make the repairs was not provided to the public.

The danger to Honolulu’s aquifer from fuel leaking from the tanks exists now.  

Citizens of Oahu cannot wait for two years for massive repairs to the tank farm and pipe system, before removing the fuel when there are cheaper and faster alternatives to the probable extraordinarily expensive massive repairs called for by the report. Public trust in the Navy is very low with many feeling that the Navy will “slow roll” the shutting down of Red Hill and use national security to continue operation of the Red Hill facility and imperil the remainder of Honolulu’s water supply.

An Alternative Defueling Option

The 100 million gallons of jet fuel in the tanks does not need to be piped down from Red Hill to the above ground fuel tanks at Pearl Harbor, some of which are over 100 years old.  Nor does it need to go by the pipe network to Hotel Pier at Pearl Harbor Naval Base to be put into ship fuel tankers.

A fast defueling solution is to make whatever repairs to the individual tanks necessary to move the fuel out by a smaller pipe system to the Halawa entrance of Red Hill. The fuel would then be put into tanker trucks similar to the system used at commercial refineries that move fuel from above ground tanks for delivery to gas stations. 

Fuel would NOT be pumped down to Pearl Harbor, but instead into 7,500 gallon commercial fuel tankers that would be staged at the Halawa entrance to the Red Hill complex.  

The tank trucks would move the fuel to whatever site is designated: the above ground tanks at Pearl Harbor, Hotel Pier for ship fuel tankers which could be refueling the RIMPAC ships or to PAR Hawaii above ground tanks in Kapolei that reportedly have a 60-million-gallon storage capacity.

If there are 50 tanker trucks each carrying 7500 gallons and each making 10 trips in a 24-hour period, they would move 3,750,000 gallons a day.  

With 50 trucks working this schedule (with 3 union drivers working 8-hour shifts) of moving 3,750,000 gallons per day, it would take 27 days to drain the 100 million gallons from Red Hill tanks, NOT TWO YEARS!!!

Even f the Navy would pay for only half that number of tanker trucks, it would take 25 trucks working 24 hour days less than 2 months, only 54 days to drain the 100 million gallons.

US military photo of Granular Activated Carbon filter tanks off-loaded at Hickam Air Base, Hawaii.

If there are not sufficient fuel tank trucks on Oahu, the US military could fly additional tanker trucks into Hawaii similar to the airlift of the massive Granular Activated Carbon filter tanks that “filtered” the fuel contaminated water at the residential areas around Pearl Harbor Naval Base and Hickam Air Base.

HELPFUL HINT: In case the Navy has trouble locating fuel tanker trucks, 15+ are for sale by Opperman & Son, Inc., 280 Kinley Dr., Healdsburg, California 95448,  855-419-1977.

Ann Wright served 29 years in the US Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel.  She was also in the US Diplomatic Corps for 16 years in US Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia.  She resigned from the US government in March 2003 in opposition to the US war on Iraq.  She is the co-author of “Dissent: Voices of Conscience.”

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