Hawaii Delegation Introduces Legislation to Protect Drinking Water and Improve Red Hill Fuel Storage Facility

The Hawai‘i congressional delegation introduced legislation to ensure the Navy, Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) meet their obligations to the State of Hawai‘i to protect drinking water and improve the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility on Oahu.

Inside one of the Red Hill fuel tanks.

“The EPA, the Navy, and the State agree that protecting the aquifer that supplies Oahu’s drinking water is essential,” said U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i). “Our bill firms up that commitment into federal law by making sure the agencies responsible for improving Red Hill have the federal funding they need to implement the actions that are agreed to.”

“Red Hill is critical military infrastructure and we want the Navy to succeed in successfully remediating environmental concerns associated with past fuel leaks above Oahu’s aquifers,” said U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01). “Working together, this will be a win-win for military readiness and Oahu residents.”

“Completing the necessary infrastructure upgrades at Red Hill Fuel Facility will safeguard our water and environment, while also protecting a critical asset to our national security,” said U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i). “Providing budget flexibility and conducting strict oversight of EPA and DOD’s progress towards meeting their commitments is an appropriate way to stretch a short supply of critical federal dollars.”

“These fuel storage tanks sit above aquifers that provide drinking water for up to 30% of Oahu’s residents,” said U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02). “It’s essential the Department of Defense commit the necessary resources to eliminate any threat these tanks pose to our most precious resource – water.”

The legislation, written and introduced by U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, ensures the Navy, DLA, and other federal agencies charged with protecting Oahu’s drinking water from fuel leaks follow a set of actions the agencies agreed to take following the January 2014 leak of jet fuel from the Red Hill facility. The Navy’s investigation of the January 2014 leak determined that it was the result of contractor error. In September 2015, the Navy, DLA, and EPA entered into an Administrative Order on Consent/Statement of Work (AOC/SOW) with the State of Hawai‘i’s Department of Health (DOH). That agreement establishes a roadmap for how the Navy and DLA will protect Oahu’s drinking water from future fuel leaks by making improvements to Red Hill, including the fuel tanks. The bill requires the Department of Defense, which includes the Navy and DLA, and the EPA to include the necessary funding in their respective budgets to make the improvements identified in the agreement.

U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

Red Hill Tanks Pass Tightness Testing, Show No Leaking

The Navy completed routine tank tightness testing for the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility Feb. 2. The Navy began its latest tank testing in November 2016. All operating tanks continue to pass leak detection criteria of Title 40 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations.*
A tank tightness test is a procedure that determines if an underground storage tank leaks. Operators precisely fill the tank and measure pressure to ensure the tank is not leaking.

Inside one of the Red Hill Fuel Tanks

Planned to be a biennial test, the Navy increased tank tightness testing frequency to annually in 2015.  The Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) and Statement of Work (SOW), as regulated by the EPA and the State of Hawaii Department of Health, incorporated this test.
In his most recent letter to stakeholders, Rear Adm. John Fuller, commander, Navy Region Hawaii, said, “To address fuel tank integrity, the Navy employs a continuing process that monitors the tanks with testing and inspections and sustains them with planned preventative as well as corrective maintenance, as needed.  We take to heart and apply the lessons learned and process improvements we developed after the fuel release from Tank 5 in 2014.”

The release that occurred in January 2014 was from Tank 5, which had undergone regularly scheduled maintenance. No other tanks were involved in the 2014 fuel release. The Navy took appropriate action to fix the contracting issues of poor workmanship, lack of quality control and procedural failures.

Since then, the Navy modified its quality assurance practices and policies, increased testing frequency and capabilities, and improved facility operating procedures to help prevent fuel releases from happening again in the future.

“While we have a world class system today, the Navy will continue to improve monitoring systems under AOC section 4,” Fuller said.

In an earlier letter to stakeholders, Fuller said, “I assure you that we are applying – and will continue to actively apply – what we learned to improve our processes and that we will only return Tank 5 to service after certifying it is safe.”

Since 2006, the Department of Defense invested more than $200 million to continue modernizing Red Hill and to conduct environmental testing. The Red Hill facility is of vital strategic importance to our nation since its construction. It is vital today and will remain vital for the foreseeable future.

More information can be found on the Navy’s website on Red Hill at www.cnic.navy.mil/redhill. Information is also available on the EPA’s website at www.epa.gov/region9/waste/ust/redhill/index.html.
(*Title 40: Protection of Environment is the section of the CFR that deals with the Environmental Protection Agency’s mission of protecting human health and the environment.)

Red Hill Update – NAVY Says Water Remains Safe to Drink

Last week, Rear Adm. John Fuller, commander of Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, sent another Red Hill “stakeholder letter” to business and community leaders and elected officials. Fuller shared the latest information about the fuel storage facility and how the Navy is keeping drinking water safe.

Rear Adm. John Fuller, commander of Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group, Middle Pacific, left of right, briefs members of the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, Moanalua Valley Community Association and Pearl City Neighborhood Board No. 21 during a visit to one of the fuel tanks at the Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility near Pearl Harbor. The group visited the modernized Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, where leaders and subject matter experts showed how the Navy maintains the facility as a national strategic asset. Red Hill provides fuel to operate overseas while ensuring drinking water in the area remains safe. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Laurie Dexter/Released)

Rear Adm. John Fuller, commander of Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group, Middle Pacific, left of right, briefs members of the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, Moanalua Valley Community Association and Pearl City Neighborhood Board No. 21 during a visit to one of the fuel tanks at the Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility near Pearl Harbor. The group visited the modernized Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, where leaders and subject matter experts showed how the Navy maintains the facility as a national strategic asset. Red Hill provides fuel to operate overseas while ensuring drinking water in the area remains safe. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Laurie Dexter/Released)

The letter is a means for keeping communication lines open, providing details about ongoing improvements, and thanking public officials and the community for support to the military and its mission in Hawaii.

Fuller’s letter opens with a note of appreciation.

“Before I discuss Red Hill, I feel honored to thank you for your heartfelt expressions of aloha and continued support to the families, friends and colleagues of the 12 Marines who recently lost their lives during night training off of Oahu.”

Regarding new information about advancements in and around Red Hill:

“I am pleased to report that on December 4, 2015, staff from the Navy, Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), State of Hawaii Department of Health (DOH), and Region IX of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded a week of face-to-face, in-depth meetings in accordance with the Administrative Order on Consent signed on September 28, 2015.”

Fuller noted, “These initial scoping meetings met our objectives.  The participants organized into groups to address specific sections of the statement of work within the order including:  tank inspection, repair and maintenance procedures report; tank upgrade alternatives report; corrosion and metal fatigue practices report; and the groundwater flow model and contaminant fate and transport report.  We are pleased with the outcome of these discussions.”

Regulatory agencies approved outlines for reports on fuel release monitoring systems and corrosion and metal fatigue practices.

The Navy is working closely with stakeholders. The team expects to complete the scoping work for tank inspection, repair, and maintenance procedures, and for tank upgrade alternatives, by the end of March.  Draft reports for release detection/tank tightness testing and corrosion and metal fatigue practices are due in April.

The Navy uses ten groundwater sampling locations now and plans to install four additional groundwater monitoring wells to “improve our ability to assess and predict the potential migration of subsurface fuel constituents.”

Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Lovgren, fuel director at Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center Pearl Harbor, right, briefs members of the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, Moanalua Valley Community Association and Pearl City Neighborhood Board No. 21 during a visit at Joint Base Pearl Harbor‐Hickam. The group visited the modernized Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, where subject matter experts showed how the Navy maintains the facility as a national strategic asset. Red Hill provides fuel to operate overseas while ensuring drinking water in the area remains safe. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Laurie Dexter/Released)

Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Lovgren, fuel director at Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center Pearl Harbor, right, briefs members of the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, Moanalua Valley Community Association and Pearl City Neighborhood Board No. 21 during a visit at Joint Base Pearl Harbor‐Hickam. The group visited the modernized Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, where subject matter experts showed how the Navy maintains the facility as a national strategic asset. Red Hill provides fuel to operate overseas while ensuring drinking water in the area remains safe. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Laurie Dexter/Released)

Fuller noted, “The Navy continues to monitor the quality of the drinking water sources closest to the Red Hill facility and share that data with EPA and DOH.  As I mentioned in my November 2015 letter, over the years, we intermittently detected trace amounts of fuel constituents adjacent to the Navy’s Red Hill drinking water shaft . at barely detectable levels.  The other important facts about our trace detections are that these levels are far below DOH Environmental Action Levels (EAL), and most importantly, these levels pose no risk to human health.”

He added, “Most recently, in July 2015, we detected trace amounts of Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (a fuel constituent) at an estimated value of 17 parts per billion, well below the EAL of 100 parts per billion. Our EPA-certified lab had to estimate the amount because the detection level was too low to accurately quantify.”

The drinking water near Red Hill is safe and has been safe through 70 years of operation.

“The water was and continues to be safe to drink,” Fuller said.  “Moving from today and looking into the future, the Navy will continue to perform diligent and careful water quality analyses on our water.  We will continue to submit water test results to DOH, and will promptly inform DOH, EPA and the public if there is ever any risk to the safety of the drinking water.”

Fuller concluded his letter with another note of appreciation to the community:

“Thank you for your continued support to our military and our mission in Hawaii.  Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any concerns regarding Red Hill or our progress.  I encourage you to review the Navy’s website on Red Hill and suggest that you subscribe to EPA’s website.  You can find those sites at www.cnic.navy.mil/redhill and www.epa.gov/region9/waste/ust/redhill/index.html.”