Pentagon: Red Hill Defueling on Track, Joint Task Force Starting Environmental Assessment
by Heather Mongilio, USNI News, March 17, 2023
The Navy is on target to meet the July 2024 deadline to defuel the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Hawaii, the Department of Defense said Thursday.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with Vice Adm. John Wade, commander of the Joint Task Force – Red Hill, and other Navy and defense leaders this week to discuss the progress on defueling the bulk fuel storage facility.
In addition to Wade, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Gilbert Cisneros Jr., Indo-Pacific Command Adm. John Aquilino and Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment William LaPlante participated in the meeting with Austin.
Austin ordered the closure of Red Hill after a November 2021 leak caused fuel to get into the Hawaiian drinking water, affecting military families and local residents.
The Navy and Department of Defense plan to defuel Red Hill and then close it, with it potentially used later for other storage.
The Navy has continued to monitor water levels around Red Hill, while the Defense Department opened up health care resources for those affected by the contaminated water, according to a readout of Austin’s meeting with the other officials.
The Joint Task Force also announced this week that it would start an environmental assessment as part of defueling efforts.
“By understanding the possible environmental effects of our proposed actions, we will be able to use best practices and minimize impacts, ensuring we are good stewards of the environment,” Wade said in a Navy news release. “We will also ensure that the public is informed about any environmental effects considered in the decision-making process. This is the right thing to do.”
The environmental assessment is in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and is required before Red Hill can be defueled. The assessment will look at the potential environmental effects of relocating the fuel using a tanker ship, according to the news release.
A public comment period on the environmental assessment is expected to open on June 9.
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