It took the Department of Defense (DOD) 3 years to begin work on shutting down the tanks after the decision was made. The decision to close and remove the original 33 underground fuel storage tanks and construct six new above-ground tanks was made in 2018 but work did not begin to close down the facility until July 2021. Each of the six new, above ground tanks will be able to contain 5.2 million gallons of JP-5 carrier jet fuel or F-76 marine diesel fuel in 64-foot-tall, 140-foot-wide tanks constructed of welded steel columns with supported fixed cone roofs. Approximately 75 million gallons are stored at Manchester Fuel Depot now. At that rate, it would take eighteen+ years to defuel and close Red Hill, assuming it holds 180 million gallons of fuel.
On March 7, 2022 Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered the defueling and closure of the 80-year-old leaking 250 million gallon jet fuel tanks at Red Hill on the island of O’ahu, Hawai’i. The order came 95 days after a catastrophic 19,000-gallon leak of jet fuel into one of the drinking water wells operated by the U.S. Navy. The drinking water of over 93,000 persons was contaminated, including the water of many military and civilian families living on military bases. Hundreds went to emergency rooms for treatment of rashes, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea and seizures. The military placed thousands of military families in hotels Waikiki resorts for over 3 months while civilians were left to find their own accommodations.
Total Congressional funding for all aspects of the Navy’s Red Hill water contamination debacle is now over $1.1 billion according to Hawai’i Congressional representative Ed Case and billions more are needed to complete clean-up, defueling and closing of the massive leaking Red Hill jet fuel storage facility. In a news release on March 9, 2022, Rep. Case said, “These funds ($700 million) are in addition to the $403 million in emergency funding we obtained in another bill we passed just weeks ago, bringing Congress’ total funding for all aspects of Red Hill in the current fiscal year alone to over $1.1 billion. But billions more will be required to complete all aspects of the cleanup, stabilization, defueling and closing of Red Hill and the relocation of its fuel and build fuel storage capacity elsewhere.”
After stalling for decades in addressing the dangers of the massive Red Hill jet fuel storage facility in Honolulu, in a surprising move on March 7, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered the leaking 80-year-old jet fuel tanks to be drained of their 180 million gallons of jet fuel and the facility permanently closed. The decision comes after years of protest by the community and endless warnings by the Honolulu Board of Water Supply that the continued leaks in the tank system, which includes twenty 20 story tanks and tens of miles of pipes, was headed for a catastrophic leak that could endanger the water supply of Honolulu which is located only 100 feet below the tanks that were built in World War II.
Two lawsuits filed on February 2, 2022 by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of the Department of Defense and the Department of Navy challenge the State of Hawaii’s emergency order to shut down and defuel the leaking 80-year-old jet fuel tanks. These lawsuits have created another public relations nightmare for the U.S. Navy and the Department of Defense as residents of O’ahu have expressed their dismay and outrage to the continuing threat of jet fuel to their drinking water aquifer. In November 2021, the Red Hill tank system leaked jet fuel into the drinking water of 93,000 residents in military housing around Pearl Harbor Navy Base and Hickam Air Force base.
The slow roll has begun. With transparency thrown out the window, the Navy’s announced on January 26 that it would release only the summary of the report on how jet fuel got into the water supply. “When the review is complete, we expect the Navy to provide a summary of the conclusions in a public release,” the chief of information for the Navy declared. The Navy has released full reports of previous leaks from the Red Hill tanks. The full report was given to the Commander of the US Navy’s Pacific Command, 12 days ago on January 14 and the completed report was only acknowledged on January 24. The Sierra Club’s attorney David Kimo Frankel said, “The Navy continues to stonewall the public.”
In November, a huge underground naval fuel storage facility at Red Hill near Honolulu burst, leaking 14,000 gallons of jet fuel, contaminating the water supply, poisoning scores of people and driving thousands of Hawaiian families from their homes. The state’s attorney general, David Day, has alleged that the military has essentially no control over the safety of the enormous depot, which holds 250 million gallons of fuel. Day remarked that the state had a “ticking time bomb” on its hands, and that further contamination of its precious water supply was all but inevitable. The tanks sit just feet above the island’s largest aquifer. And this incident is merely the latest in a long list showing the American empire’s callous disregard for the civilian population of Hawaii, as it puts military needs before the people or the environment.