Legislature Pondering Red Hill Fuel Storage Tank Upgrades

Mar 20, 2018

Red Hill Fuel Storage Tank Upgrades
Credit U.S. Navy

State lawmakers are considering legislation to direct the U.S. Navy to build safeguards at its Red Hill Fuel Storage Facility. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.


The 2015 Administrative Order on Consent -- the AOC -- directs the Navy to reinforce 20 fuel storage tanks – each the size of Aloha Tower - by the year

(L-R) Sierra Club chapter president, Marti Townsend; Rear Adm. Brian Fort, commander, Naval Region Hawaii; and Capt. Rich Hayes, commander, Naval Facilities Engineering Command.
Credit Wayne Yoshioka


2037.  This, after Tank number 5 at the Red Hill Fuel Storage Facility leaked 27-thousand gallons of fuel in January 2014.  O’ahu Board of Water Supply manager and chief engineer, Ernie Lau, asked members of the House Health and Human Services Committee to insert language in Senate Bill 2930 requiring secondary containment using double wall construction.


“The fuel stored at Red Hill, ideally should be moved to another location without impacting our ground water.  However, we realize that the Navy and PACOM finds this an extremely important facility, so, if they want to continue storing enormous kinds of fuel there above our sole source aquifer, we then believe that secondary containment – a tank within a tank design  -- is a proper way to prevent releases into the environment as required by state law”.


Senate Bill 2930, currently has no preferred design for the tank upgrades, but, Rear Admiral Brian Fort, commander of Naval Region Hawai’i, says the Administrative Order on Consent provides the flexibility needed to complete the tank upgrades by 2037.


“I want to protect the water as much as anyone.  But a double-wall tank might take a whole lot longer than a liner and if the liner provides me interim protection while I move to a double-wall solution, I think that’s way better than assigning me a double wall and now, maybe we spend another 5 or 6 years trying to come up with a firm that will agree to do it.  All I ask is not to tie my hands by forcing an option that maybe I can’t execute for 5 or 6 years.”


But, Sierra Club Chapter President, Marti Townsend, says the Navy can get the funding and the time to construct secondary containment.  The Sierra Club originally asked for construction to be completed in 5 years, but, Townsend says, they would settle for half of the allotted 20 years.


“The limitations that the Navy have articulated in terms to the time frame are self-imposed.  They have decided that only 3 tanks can be updated at one time.  That’s them setting the limitation on themselves.  If we, as people of Hawai’i; you as our legislators, say we need you to move faster, I am confident that the Navy will find a way to upgrade more tanks at one time.”




But, Red Hill Regional Program director, Mark Manfredi, says the complex secondary containment options will require more workers and time.


“That’s working probably working 2 ten-hour shifts per day.  If you try to do more shifts, it’s actually counterproductive because people begin to get in their way, you begin to inherit more risk, you can only jam so many people and much equipment in the tunnel at a time.  It’s inherently more risky from a construction perspective and to try to do it any sooner than that you’re just asking for failure.”


Sierra Club’s Townsend asked lawmakers to mandate a double wall upgrade requirement to be completed by 2027.


“We implore you to please stand up for us.  Pleas protect our groundwater.”


The House Health and Human Services Committee plans to make a decision on SB 2930 on Thursday morning.  Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.