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DOH conditionally approves first phase of Red Hill defueling

HONOLULU – The Hawai‘i Department of Health (DOH) conditionally approved the U.S. Navy’s unpacking plan to remove existing fuel from the three pipelines at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility.

The Navy’s Unpacking Plan is the first phase of its overall plan to defuel the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, as required under DOH’s May 6 Emergency Order.

“The Department of Health is focused on ensuring the Navy defuels Red Hill safely,” said Deputy Director of Environmental Health Kathleen Ho in a statement.

“DOH staff completed a careful review of the unpacking plan, observed spill response drills, and required additional environmental control measures be put into place before unpacking can begin. We continue to push for the defueling and closure of the Red Hill facility to happen as quickly as possible with safety as our first priority.”

The Navy indicated that unpacking maneuvers will begin in the next couple of weeks. Removing existing fuel from the Red Hill pipelines will allow the Navy to begin critical repairs to facilitate safe defueling. These include repairs to prevent and minimize impacts from a pressure surge event similar to the one that occurred on May 6, 2021.

The Navy must seek DOH approval on a repair plan and defueling plan before those phases can move forward.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) applauded the plan.

“This is a positive step toward defueling and shutting down Red Hill. DOD (Department of Defense) must continue to work with state officials and community leaders as quickly as possible. There’s no turning back, and there’s no time to waste,” said Schatz in a statement.

U.S. Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) also approved of the plan.

“The approval of this plan is a critical step toward permanently closing Red Hill. I have urged leaders at the Defense Department including Secretary Austin and JTF Red Hill Commander Wade to begin the defueling process as soon as is safely possible,” said Hirono in a statement. “Transparency and collaboration have been essential in this process so far, and will continue to be as we work together to quickly and safely defuel and close Red Hill.

DOH is requiring the Navy to take the following additional steps to prevent or to respond to a spill:

• Completion of a site visit to inspect repairs and systems installed to divert and recover fuel in the event of a spill;

• Completion of personnel training to ensure full and consistent understanding of unpacking;

• Incorporation of DOH’s comments into release response plan procedures;

• Protecting preferential pathways to the drinking water aquifer;

• Requiring the Navy to stage additional staff and equipment on site that can be used to divert or recover fuel.
Source: The Garden Island

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