US military drops call for Hawaii order to dump fuel tanks | Hawaii News

By AUDREY McAVOY, Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) — The U.S. government on Friday dropped calls for an order from Hawaii requiring it to remove fuel from a massive military fuel storage facility that leaked oil into the city’s water system. navy at Pearl Harbor last year.

Lawyers for the US Department of Defense informed state and federal courts of his decision. The move comes more than a month after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the military would permanently shut down the tanks and drain all their fuel.

The Hawaii Department of Health, which issued the order, said the decision regarding the Red Hill bulk fuel storage facility was a “step forward.”

“While today’s announcement is welcome news, the work continues,” the department said in a statement. He said he would “continue to act quickly and proactively to oversee the safe refueling and decommissioning of Red Hill and the restoration of the aquifer”.

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David Henkin, an Earthjustice attorney who represents the Sierra Club of Hawaii as an interested party in the case, said his clients will remain vigilant to ensure the tanks are quickly drained.

“This is a wonderful Earth Day gift for the people of Hawaii and especially for all the people of Oahu who depend on safe, clean drinking water when they turn on their taps,” Henkin said.

The Navy and Hawaii Department of Health did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Henkin said that even if Austin changed his mind and tried to keep the tanks open, the military would now face “a binding, irrefutable, and unquestioned order from the Department of Health that they must follow.”

The Hawaii Department of Health order requires the military to remove fuel from tanks 30 days after it is safe to do so. The military will have to meet that deadline now that it drops the appeal, Henkin said.

The military, under the supervision of the state health department and the US Environmental Protection Agency, is developing plans to safely remove the fuel. We don’t know how long that will take.

Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii, said in a statement that dropping the lawsuit “clears the way for us to close Red Hill this year.”

The legal challenge has made it difficult for the state to work cooperatively with the Department of Defense, Schatz said. He said he lobbied the army for the decision.

Oil leaked from Red Hill tanks into a Navy drinking water well late last year, sickening 6,000 people mostly living in military housing. Medical teams treated people complaining of nausea, headaches, rashes and other symptoms. The army housed around 4,000 families in hotels for several months while it cleaned its water pipes.

The reservoirs also pose a threat to the water consumed by 400,000 people on Oahu. That’s because they sit 100 feet above an aquifer that serves the Honolulu Water Supply Board, the city’s water utility, in addition to the Honolulu water supply system. Marine.

The city’s utility has suspended the use of three of its wells until it can be sure that oil will not migrate through the aquifer in the area near the Navy well to its own wells. .

The water department and local leaders also fear another spill could poison the city’s water system.

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