[News] Hawai'i Groups Wary Of Military’s Sudden Decision To Shut Down Red Hill

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Mar 10 12:19:14 EST 2022

Groups Wary Of Military’s Sudden Decision To Shut Down Red Hill
By Colonel Ann Wright - Marcvh 9, 2022

After stalling for decades in addressing the dangers of the massive Red
Hill jet fuel storage facility in Honolulu, in a surprising move on March 7,
 Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered
 the leaking 80-year-old jet fuel tanks to be drained of their 180 million
gallons of jet fuel and the facility permanently closed.

The decision comes after years of protest by the community and endless
warnings by the Honolulu Board of Water Supply that the continued leaks in
the tank system, which includes twenty 20 story tanks and tens of miles of
pipes, was headed for a catastrophic leak that could endanger the water
supply of Honolulu which is located only 100 feet below the tanks that were
built in World War II.

The predicted massive leak occurred in November 2021 and contaminated the
drinking water of 93,000 persons, including many of the military’s own

In response to the Department of Defense decision to permanently close the
Red Hill jet fuel tank facility, Sierra Club-Hawaii and Earthjustice, two
organizations that have led the legal challenge to the military’s continued
operation of the leaking tanks, called on the Navy to “withdraw its (legal)
appeals of the Department of Health’s emergency order requiring defueling
of the Red Hill tanks and withdraw its application for a permit to keep
operating the polluting facility.”

“Admitting you have a problem is just step one in the journey to fixing it,”
 said Wayne Tanaka, Sierra Club of Hawai‘i’s chapter director
“We all need to continue to hold the Navy accountable not just in this
promise to defuel and shut down Red Hill, but to address the harms that
have occurred and will continue to occur due to the mess it created, and to
provide us with the resources necessary to pull us out of the ongoing
contamination crisis.”

Earthjustice attorney David Henkin wrote
 in the organization’s press release,

“For years, the Navy has been telling us that the Red Hill facility is
vital for national security and irreplaceable. Now, the Secretary of
Defense has done a 180 and concluded that the facility is out-of-date and
that, in the 21st century, there are much better ways to supply the
military with fuel. This just goes to show that we really need to take a
healthy dollop of salt with the military’s claims that its decades-old,
environmentally destructive ways of doing things are necessary to defend
the nation.”
Citizen Activism to Shut Down Red Hill

O’ahu Water Protectors <https://www.instagram.com/p/Ca0_4bpLpha/>, one of
the major citizen activist groups that organized numerous press
conferences, educational webinars and sign-wavings, demanded that the Red
Hill facility be defueled and shut down as soon as possible as fuel in the
tanks present an imminent threat to Honolulu’s aquifer and that DOD  pay
for remediation of the aquifer and contaminated sites, including
surrounding environment and replacement as needed of all impacted
infrastructure including full reimbursement to the State of Hawaii and
County of Honolulu.  They also call for the reimbursement to affected
families for all current and future healthcare costs and all personal
expenses connected to the Navy’s water contamination and establishment of
 a Community Oversight board.
Native Hawaiian Voices Echo Need For Watchfulness

Camille Kalama, an organizer for Ka’ohewai
a coalition of Hawaiian organizations that came together for Kapukaki or
Red Hill, said “This is a first step.. the decision has been made but the
actual, defueling, decommissioning, and rehabilitating the surrounding area
is going to take time. We are committed to seeing that through…we are going
to stay in communication, demand and request information to be shared with
us on this process because the last thing we want is for this to fall out
of the news cycle, people to forget, and years later another spill happens,
more people are sick.”

Kawena’ulaokala Kapahua, a community organizer for O’ahu Water Protectors,
said “We’ve seen examples in the past of the Navy saying they are going to
stop an operation and then they don’t…It’s taken months, years, of
community pressure and community work to get the Navy to be held
accountable here and so it’s going to take the community continuing to
stick up for ourselves to have a safe place to live and drink water.”

The Shut Down Red Hill coalition of over 60 organizations applauded the DOD
decision with various organizations issuing statements of support.
Dangers From Underground Jet Fuel Tanks

Over time, the walls of the World War II  tanks had deteriorated to the
thickness of less than a dime and could not withstand the pressure of a
completely filled tank. The network of pipes was so old that no one knew
where all the pipes were.  The lack of knowledge of the entire system
became dangerously obvious in November 2021 when a series of mistakes,
including not know that an overflow drainpipe drained into the Red Hill
well,  released an estimated 19,000 gallons of jet fuel into the Red Hill
drinking water.  Surveillance cameras in the facility had not worked for
over a year so there was no operator observation of the incident and no
immediate action taken to attempt to remediate the leak.
93,000 Military and Civilian Families Suffer Serious Health Problems

The contaminated Red Hill well provided the drinking water for over 93,000
persons who live in residential area on military bases and the surrounding
civilian neighborhoods, as well as to many of the national security
facilities at Pearl Harbor Naval Base and Hickam Air Force Base.

Unknown to them that there was a jet fuel spill, during November 2021,
thousands of military and civilian family members went to emergency rooms
with rashes, headaches, hair loss, burning skin and throats, vomiting, motor
disfunction and other neurological issues all consistent with petroleum
poisoning.  Three months after families began suffering from jet fuel
poisoning, the military still has not brought in any toxicologists nor have
they established a laboratory on-island to provide immediate answers to
families about jet fuel poisoning.  Pets were affected as well.

Finally, to get the families out of the contaminated housing, the military
relocated thousands of their families into hotels in Waikiki.  Civilian
families had to find alternative housing at their own expense which was a
warning to the 400,000 civilian residents of O’ahu who water comes from the
same aquifer, that if a Red Hill jet fuel spill contaminates the entire
aquifer, civilians would not receive any assistance from the military and
would have to rely on scare state resources.

By mid-December 2021, two weeks after the jet fuel spill, the military
embarked on a massive “flushing” of the main water systems of all nineteen
affected zones.  Initial flushing was controversial as some of the jet fuel
contaminated water was directed into storm drains that went directly into
the ocean while other contaminated water went into sewage drains with
sewage plants left to try to decontaminate the water.  Finally, very large
carbon activated filtration units were flown in from the continental United
States to decontaminate the water before it was sent into storm drains and
sewage lines.

With the main lines flushed, a massive movement of young military personnel
from all services -Navy, Air Force, Army and Marines-were deployed to go
house to house to “flush” the lines in each home.  Each water tap in
kitchens and bathrooms and every appliance that used water including
dishwasher, clothes washing machines and water heaters were to be
“flushed.”  As reported by many families, not all teams knew what they were
doing and family members reported that not all appliances were flushed and
water coming out of taps still smelled of fuel and had surface sheens.

Families have had to throw away plastic eating and drinking materials as
the fuel can seep into the plastic and will not come out with soapy water
as was first advised.  Plastic parts in ice makers and other appliances
should be replaced, generally at the expense of the family.

Through an Interagency process, the State of Hawai’i Department of Health
has approved consumption of drinking water in xxx zones as of March 3.

On March 3, the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) lifted its “no not drink”
 for three more zones on the Navy’s water system, which included more than
1,100 homes.   A dozen more zones on the Navy’s water system are still
awaiting clearance from DOH.

However, some families report
<https://www.facebook.com/groups/311603564169307> that upon returning to
their homes and drinking the water, symptoms of fuel contamination return.

The Honolulu Board of Water Supply has already warned
 that residents of O’ahu that they may be required to reduce water
consumption during the summer because of drinking water wells being taken
off-line to prevent their contamination by the jet fuel.
Suspicion that DOD “Slow Roll” the Draining of Tanks and Closure of Red Hill

The Secretary of Defense ordered that jet fuel tanks to be drained within a
year after the May 31 assessment, which could be 15 months after the order,
not 12 months.

Activists fear that the Department of Defense will “slow roll” its decision
by possibly declaring a national security threat that can only be addressed
by keeping the Red Hill fuel tanks open on a “temporary” basis that could
last years.
Health and Safety of O’ahu Residents are a National Security Concern

Residents of O’ahu remind the US military that as residents on an island
filled with four major military bases that are considered to be vital
national security facilities, that the health and safety of the inhabitants
of the island must be also be considered as a vital national security
imperative even more important than the international political issues of
the region.

Without the health of the work force on the island of O’ahu, the U.S.
military could not fulfill its national security mission.

*Ann Wright* served 29 years in the US Army/Army Reserves and retired as a
Colonel.  She also served as a US diplomat in US embassies in Nicaragua,
Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia,
Afghanistan and Mongolia.  She resigned from the US government in March
2003 in opposition to the US war on Iraq.  She has been a resident of
Honolulu for 20 years and has written frequently on the dangers of the Red
Hill Jet Fuel storage facility. She is the co-author of “Dissent: Voices of
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