Readout of Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Meeting on Red Hill Defueling, Closure and Health Response Plan
News Release from DoD, Oct. 25, 2022
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III convened senior Department leaders yesterday for an update on efforts to safely and expeditiously defuel and permanently close the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility. The Secretary emphasized the need to continue health response efforts to protect and ensure the health of military families affected by the November 2021 water contamination. The meeting included the Secretary of the Navy, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Chief of Naval Operations, INDOPACOM Commander, Joint Task Force Red Hill commander Rear Admiral John Wade, and other senior leaders.
Rear Admiral Wade briefed Secretary Austin that defueling unpacking operations will begin this week and that the Joint Task Force is on schedule. During the meeting, the Secretary relayed his confidence that the Joint Task Force Red Hill will continue to focus on protecting the population and the environment throughout the defueling process. The Secretary emphasized that Department of Defense remains committed to the health and safety of our military families and the people of Hawaii.
Secretary Austin visited the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility on September 30 to receive an update from Rear Admiral Wade, who is in command of a more than one hundred person Joint Task Force charged with the defueling effort of the facility. Joint Task Force Red Hill continues to work closely with the Hawaii Department of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency on the planning and implementation of the defueling process. Once the Joint Task Force Red Hill has completed its defueling efforts, the Department of the Navy will work with the Hawaii Department of Health and the EPA to close the facility. The Navy will be submitting a closure plan for the Red Hill Facility no later than November 1, 2022 to the Hawaii Department of Health.
* * * * *
Red Hill Fuel to Stay at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickham, Says Task Force
by Heather Mongilio, USNI, October 24, 2022
Joint Task Force Red Hill is set to start draining jet and marine diesel fuel from three pipelines at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility on Tuesday, Navy officials confirmed Monday.
Draining the pipelines, which have approximately 1.16 million gallons of fuel split between them, is the first step in completely defueling Red Hill, USNI News previously reported. The fuel taken from the pipelines will be stored in tanks or barges at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickham or Hotel Pier, where it will be used to fuel jets and ships, Rear Adm. John Wade said during a press call Monday evening.
The jet fuel – 162,000 gallons of F-24, a commercial grade jet fuel, and around 216,000 gallons of JP-5, a kerosene-based jet fuel – will be stored at Hickham, Wade said. The approximate 691,000 gallons of maritime diesel fuel F-76 will be kept at Pearl Harbor.
Unpacking operations were planned to begin on Oct. 17 until a water main break delayed them, USNI News previously reported. The water main break caused fluctuations in water pressure, which could affect the Joint Task Force’s ability to use water in the lower portion of the facility to put out a fire if one were to happen, Wade said.
“When there were fluctuations in the pressure, that added risk, we took a knee, slowed things down,” Wade said. “We put in portable equipment. We stopped all operations to reduce risk. We waited for the repairs to be completed. Made sure the pressures were safe.”
The majority of the unpacking will use gravity to flow the fuel through the pipes and down to a storage tank or barge, USNI News previously reported. Any remaining fuel will be pulled out of the pipes and transferred to the storage tanks.
Draining the pipelines is just one phase of the overall plan to defuel Red Hill. The most recent Navy plan has the complete defueling finished by July 2024, but Wade said that the Joint Task Force is working with the Hawaii Department of Health to reduce the timeline further. The Department of Defense did submit a supplement to the defueling plan that could shorten the timeline to 30 to 120 days, USNI News reported.
“The defueling of the Red Hill facility is the right thing to do for our community, for the people of Hawaii, for our environment, for national security,” Wade said.