Hawaii congressmen back a bill to shut down Navy fuel tanks

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii’s U.S. Reps Ed Case and Kaiali‘i Kahele said Friday they have introduced legislation to permanently shut down the U.S. Navy’s fuel storage facility near Pearl Harbor.

Late last year jet fuel leaked into drinking water and showed up in military family homes. Many families became ill or developed rashes after bathing in and drinking the water.

Kahele and Case said during a rally Friday at the state Capitol that they want Congress to permanently close the facility.

Kahele is a combat pilot who still serves as an officer in the Hawaii National Guard.

“As a military officer, I can tell you that ... we believe we are keeping our country safe,” Kahele said. “And that in turn, our country will keep our military families safe. The military has failed to keep this commitment.”

There are 20 fuel tanks at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, each about 25 stories tall with the ability to hold 12.5 million gallons (47.32 million liters). The facility sits about 100 feet (31 meters) above a shared aquifer that provides about 20% of Honolulu’s drinking water.

The Navy has been trying to clear petroleum from the contaminated well and flushing clean water through the system that serves 93,000 people in military housing and offices. It says the tanks are vital to national security.

“The Navy has shown repeatedly that they are ill equipped and incapable of making Red Hill safe,” Kahele said.

Case noted the strategic importance, but said the facility should no longer be used for fuel storage.

”Our Hawaii has a critical role and responsibility for our country in all of this,” Case said. “But none of that can excuse, can justify or can change Red Hill’s harm to our people or continued risks to our communities.”

Kahele’s office says U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz is introducing a companion bill in the Senate.

Hinaleimoana Wong, the cultural ambassador for the Council on Native Hawaiian Advancement, attended the rally.

“It is absolutely critical for all of Oahu to stand up and to say that we do not accept the U.S. Navy continuing to hold their fuel above our water source,” Wong said. “The U.S. government is one of the most powerful in the world. There are other options for them to consider and no level of national security shall take precedent over the safety, the health and the wellbeing of my people of Hawaii.”