US Navy Rear Admiral Blake Converse has told a US House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness hearing that the Navy will defuel the storage tank system in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, blamed for contaminating drinking water.
The Red Hill has a total capacity of 250 million gallons (5.95 million bbl) and sits above a major aquifer supplying Honolulu. A leak of 14,000 gallons (53,000 L) of jet fuel from the site contaminated drinking water in November 2021, resulting in the occupants of around 3,500 military homes being evacuated. Around 1,000 people reported sickness following the contamination in late November and early December 2021. Earlier in January 2022, Hawaii’s Department of Health (DOH) upheld an order to the US Navy, first issued on 6 December 2021, to drain the 20 underground fuel tanks at the Red Hill fuel storage complex in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The Navy had previously fought the ruling, but according to AP, has now accepted it, with Converse admitting: ‘The Navy caused this problem. We own it. And we’re going to fix it.’ Admiral Samuel Paparo ordered compliance with the ruling after it was upheld. Converse said that while investigations are ongoing, it is believed that the leak was caused by operator error.
Hawaii Governor David Ige told AP that he expected the Navy to immediately comply with the order and said he was pleased that it was doing the ‘right thing’.