Sierra Club calls for decommissioning of Red Hill fuel tanks

The nonprofit says the navy-EPA agreement to retrofit and monitor the historically leaky tanks near Pearl Harbor is inadequate.

Hawaii Independent Staff

Above: Former Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter tours the Red Hill underground fuel storage facility in 2007 to get a first-hand look at the condition of the tanks. | wikimedia

The Sierra Club of Hawaii has expressed “extreme disappointment” in Governor Ige, the U.S. Navy, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for agreeing to a settlement that the nonprofit says does not do nearly enough to protect Oahu’s drinking water from the massive, “historically leaky” fuel storage tanks beneath Red Hill.

“The Navy should not be allowed to take unacceptable risks like this with our water,” said Sierra Club of Hawaii Director Marti Townsend. “The tanks have already leaked, future leaks are foreseeable, and there no is way to treat leaks before contamination reaches our water; the only reasonable course of action is to retire the storage tanks.

“Public safety dictates we take the most precautionary course of action,” added Townsend. “Hawaii’s Commission on Water Resources, Honolulu’s Board of Water Supply, 18 legislators, and hundreds of residents have expressed serious concerns about the inadequacy of the Navy’s proposed agreement. Yet, these substantive recommendations were not adopted in the final agreement.

“It is misleading to say that these historic tanks comply with current state and federal requirements for underground storage tanks because these tanks are exempt from the most meaningful requirements, such as double-lining,” said Townsend.

The Sierra Club says its own research into the Red Hill situation found that these 70-year-old tanks cannot be brought into compliance with current standards for underground storage tanks.

“This means the Navy cannot ensure that fuel released from these tanks will be contained before it reaches the environment, ” said Townsend.

In addition, Sierra Club found that there are no known methods for removing jet fuel from bedrock, which surrounds the tanks.

“The reality is that adding more monitoring wells around the tanks is, itself, a risk because drilling could fracture the bedrock, creating new cracks that would lead the fuel directly to our underground drinking water aquifer,” Townsend said.

“There is no justification for exposing the people of Hawaii to this kind of risk,” continued Townsend. “The U.S. Navy and the industries that rely on these fuel reserves should immediately identify new storage arrangements that comply with today’s strict environmental standards and retire these historic tanks.”