Concerned Citizens: "No excuses" for US Navy's response to massive Red Hill fuel spill
HONOLULU - Dozens filled the Moanalua Middle School cafeteria Thursday evening for a public meeting on the US Navy's fuel tank facility at Red Hill.
The fuel tank facility is located 100-yards from a water source for an estimated 600,000 Oahu residents.
"The Navy has a full understanding of the seriousness of the situation at hand, frankly there are no excuses that are acceptable at this point," said US Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI).
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Health recently rejected a plan from the US Navy to protect the state's water supply after a 27,000 gallon fuel leak in 2014. The agencies cited lack of detail and transparency.
"I don't want to see my new home turn into a situation very similar to Flint, Michigan," said Jennifer Rachels, a concerned citizen and US veteran.
State Sen. Glenn Wakai (D-Kalihi) is chairman of Senate Committee on Economic Development, Environment, and Technology. He attended a meeting with the Fuel Tank Advisory Committee on Thursday morning.
"The Navy admitted that it swung and missed," said Sen. Wakai.
Capt. Ken Epps is the commanding officer for the US Navy's Fleet Logistics Center at Pearl Harbor, which oversees Red Hill.
"This was our first time doing this, so it's unprecedented, the actual rejection is actually a beneficial thing for us, it's given us some new tools and new insights on how to improve our process," said Capt. Epps.
Navy officials say they're working with EPA and Health officials to their address concerns.
"We're very committed to this partnership here, which is all about inclusiveness, collaboration, and most importantly transparency with the community," said Capt. Epps.
Despite public concern over drinking water the EPA says Hawaii's Water Supply is a far cry from Flint, Michigan.
"It's safe, it's monitored carefully, and it's a very different issue than what their signs say," said Steven Linder with the EPA.
The water may be safe to drink, but concerned citizens and lawmakers say it's important to be proactive
"The Navy's approach is one of cross your fingers, and I'm not a believer that hope is a strategy is one we should take with this very catastrophic possibility," said Sen. Wakai.
The EPA expects a new plan from the Navy by early November.
"I think it's critical that the Navy does whatever it needs to do, to meet that deadline," said Rep. Gabbard.