EPA, Navy Enter New Contract Over Red Hill Closure
by Heather Mongilio, USNI News, January 3, 2023
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Navy entered a new administrative consent order on Dec. 20 as the sea service, led by the Joint Task Force – Red Hill, looks to defuel the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility over the next few years.
The administrative consent order lays out an overview of the Navy’s actions to defuel and close Red Hill, as well as the sea service’s plan to protect drinking water in the area around Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, according to the document, available on the EPA’s website.
The consent order does not lay out any new details from the Navy’s proposed plan for defueling Red Hill. Instead, it lays out items, such as inspections and reports, that the Navy will need to deliver.
The Joint Task Force – Red Hill is currently completing repairs to the fuel storage facility that are required before complete defueling can commence. The Joint Task Force successfully removed fuel out of three pipelines in 2022. Once repairs are finished, the Joint Task Force can move forward in the defueling plan.
The task force identified 253 repairs that need to be done, according to a Dec. 27 update. So far, 94 are finished, with 130 expected to get awarded to a contractor by Jan. 15.
But before the task force can begin removing the bulk amount of fuel, the Hawaii Department of Health must approve defueling plan. The department has not yet signed off on the proposal.
The Navy is currently investigating and remedying an aqueous film forming foam leak from November. Aqueous film forming foam is a fire suppressant that can contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and Perfluorooctanoic acid, which are considered “forever chemicals” due to their ability to last in substances, like soil, for years. PFAS and PFOA have been linked to multiple health concerns.
As of the Dec. 27 update, the Navy completed soil testing on Dec. 15. Groundwater sampling at nine monitoring wells and the Red Hill Shaft is conducted weekly. The Navy finished excavating an underground culvert near Red Hill’s Adit 6, a passageway leading to one of the facility’s tunnels. The Navy removed AFFF contamination from the asphalt, concrete and soil, according to the update.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Maj. Gen. Richard Heitkamp is investigating the AFFF spill.
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EPA proposes consent order on safe closure of Navy’s Red Hill Fuel Facility
News Release from EPA, Dec 21, 2022
SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is putting forward a proposed consent order with the U.S. Department of the Navy and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) that requires steps to ensure the safe defueling and closure of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH). The proposed order will also require the Navy to properly operate and maintain the JBPHH drinking water system to protect the health and safety of its consumers. This proposed order is the latest step in EPA’s work to oversee the Navy’s response to the November 2021 fuel release from Red Hill and subsequent Department of Defense decision to close Red Hill. Read the proposed order on EPA’s website.
“This order demonstrates EPA’s commitment to protect the O’ahu aquifer from contamination,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “Our proposed order requires the Navy and DLA to safely and expeditiously defuel and close the storage tanks at Red Hill, while also ensuring that the Navy will properly maintain and monitor the Base’s drinking water system. Such efforts are essential to safeguarding the health and the environment of communities around O’ahu.”
EPA is asking for comments on the proposed order and will host a public meeting the week of January 16, 2023, to go over details of the order and answer questions. Formal comments may be submitted on Regulations.gov from now until February 6, 2023.
Under the requirements established by the proposed order, the Navy will take significant steps towards addressing the contamination of JBPHH’s drinking water system, and the Navy and DLA will take steps to prevent and contain any future leaks from Red Hill. Actions include:
- Creating a source water protection plan to identify and implement all protective measures available for the Red Hill Shaft and all JBPHH drinking water system wells.
- Mandating regular flushing of the JBPHH drinking water system to eliminate any contamination.
- Conducting sampling of residents, businesses and schools to assure no residual contamination remains in the JBPHH drinking water system.
- Planning for infrastructure and financial needs to assess and secure resources necessary to make any needed upgrades to the JBPHH drinking water system.
- Conducting semi-annual tightness testing of each fuel storage tank at Red Hill to actively diagnose potential for leaks and proactively correct any defects until closure is complete.
- Weekly soil vapor testing for all fuel storage tanks at Red Hill to detect any contaminated soils or groundwater.
- Establishing a defueling preparedness report certifying that all repairs to Red Hill have been completed and plans have been established in preparation for defueling.
- Requiring closure plans and documentation for each tank at Red Hill that is taken out of service to verify there is no remaining fuel and that work has been complete.
Following the November 2021 contamination of JBPHH’s drinking water system, Hawaiʻi Department of Health (DOH) issued an emergency order to the Navy that required the Navy to cease all operations at Red Hill and defuel and close the 20 underground storage tanks, surge tanks, and associated piping at Red Hill. DOH’s first emergency order was issued on December 6, 2021, and a superseding order was issued on May 6, 2022. The actions required by the proposed EPA order support DOH’s emergency order by requiring the Navy and DLA to minimize risks from the movement of fuel throughout the Red Hill facility during defueling and closure.
This proposed order will not impact the existing 2015 administrative order on consent (AOC) between EPA, Hawaii DOH, the Navy and DLA which requires investigation and cleanup of releases. The 2015 AOC is still in effect and is available on EPA’s website.
Read about EPA’s work at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Hawaii.