Forum for future of Red Hill fuel tanks
As a new year is about to begin, questions about an old problem on O'ahu remain unanswered. Nearly 5 years after a huge fuel leak at the Red Hill Bulk Storage Facility, a forum will be held so people can get answers about preventing future leaks while protecting our water supply.
As a new year is about to begin, questions about an old problem on O'ahu remain unanswered.
Nearly 5 years after a huge fuel leak at the Red Hill Bulk Storage Facility, a forum will be held so people can get answers about preventing future leaks while protecting our water supply.
In Red Hill, there are 20 steel lined tanks. Each one is 250 feet tall, 100 feet in diameter, enclosed with concrete and 75 years old.
Earlier this year the Navy found the liner in the one tank it tested, had thinned considerably from its original quarter inch thickness.
"They are deteriorating. At some parts they may be as thick as a nickel, or in worst case it could be as thin as a dime. And these tanks are holding 12.5 million gallons of petroleum in each tank," said Melody Aduja, with the Hawaii Democratic Party.
"The Red Hill tanks are extremely thin and they are getting thinner by the moment. It only takes piercing them a little bit to have a massive contamination into the aquifer," added Henry Curtis, the Executive Director of Life of the Land.
The tank were built close to one of Oahu's aquifers, which provides water for residents from Moanalua to Hawaii Kai.
"The hakalau aquifer is the main aquifer for the island. These twenty tanks are as tall as a 20 story building they hold that much petroleum. One earthquake could compromise the integrity of these tanks and there goes our aquifer. It is only 100 feet below the tanks," stated Aduja.
Since the leak, the Navy has increased testing of the tanks and monitoring of areas around them.
"We also do soil vapor testing underneath the tanks themselves. We are extremely judicious about that and with everything else that we do," stated Capt. Marc Delao, with the Naval Facilities Engineering Command.
But the Navy downplayed concerns over the integrity of the tanks. Instead it blamed the leak of 27,000 gallons of fuel in 2014 on worker's errors.
"That was due to a contractors error and poor oversight. we acknowledge that. not due to an old rusty leaky tank," stated Admiral Brian Fort, with the U.S. Navy.
The Navy is still deciding what to do with the aging tanks, and had pushed for a low cost fix of a half a billion dollars to apply corrosion-resistant coatings to the tanks, while also putting in more leak detection systems.
"It is critical they removed or empty out and re-build the tanks, to be able to handle it using modern technology," said Curtis.
Installing a second tank inside to provide double wall protection from leaks could end up costing $5 billion.
But many feel the concern should not be cost but instead keeping Oahu's water free from contamination.
"Our main concern is clean drinking water," stated Aduja.
A forum on the Red Hill tanks will be held from 9:30-3:30 at the Capitol auditorium on January 14th. It will not only give people information on what is going on, but also give them a chance to ask questions of Navy representatives, as well as local and state agencies.