On Oʻahu, the US Navy has 20 underground fuel storage tanks with a total capacity to store 250 million gallons of fuel. Built during World War II (early 1940ʻs), these tanks are used for a variety of military activity in the Pacific. With ever increasing corrosion and leaking, along with issues with the pipeline system that transports the fuel to Pearl Harbor, these fuel tanks pose a risk to our environment and our community.
On November 20, 2021, a 14,000 gallon fuel leak was detected and subsequently reported by the Navy. After about a week, reports began flooding in from military residents at Pearl Harbor and nearby military housing who began to smell and see fuel in their water and who reported the onset of illnesses. As a response, in December of 2021, the Navy released this contaminated water into our storm drain system, which illegally polluted our downstream environment with toxic fuel contaminants, causing harm to our coastal waters and marine life.
On February 23, 2022, the Honolulu City Council unanimously passed Bill 48 that requires fuel storage operators to obtain a Hawaii Department of Health permit to store regulated substances of 100,000 gallons or more. It would apply to the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, which regularly holds 180 million gallons of fuel, and would add to the existing regulations the Navy is subject to under the federal Clean Water Act. According to the bill, the permit should not be issued unless the applicant demonstrates that the facility “will not leak any regulated substance into the environment during its operating.” The Red Hill fuel tank facility has many documented leaks over its 80+ year lifespan. While we are celebrating the passage of Bill 48, there is still much work to be done to ensure that the fuel tanks are not only decommissioned but also emptied and removed.
This campaign is led by organizations including Sierra Club Hawaiʻi Chapter and Hawaii Peace and Justice. Surfrider Foundation Oʻahu is supporting these organizations in their multi-year effort to resolve this issue.