(JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM) - Rear Adm. John Fuller, commander of Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, sent a third Red Hill "stakeholder letter" to business and community leaders and elected officials Friday.
Fuller shares the latest news about the fuel storage facility, explains why Red Hill is important especially on the eve of RIMPAC 2016 (Rim of the Pacific Exercise), and explains how the Navy is monitoring groundwater with additional sites in order to keep drinking water safe.
This latest correspondence is a means to keep communication lines open, provide details about ongoing improvements and show transparency with our military mission in Hawaii.
"I want to begin by assuring you that testing clearly indicates that all drinking water near Red Hill continues to be safe. Additionally, independent testing indicates that neighboring drinking water used by the Honolulu Board of Water Supply (BWS) also remains safe to drink and continues to meet all Federal and State Safe Drinking Water standards," Fuller said.
"The Navy and DLA continue our Red Hill Facility inspections and modernization upgrades to further protect drinking water and minimize the risk of future releases. We prepared documents that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently posted to their website: https://www.epa.gov/red-hill. This website contains a summary of meeting discussions, outlines, and reports by the Navy and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) for the EPA and the State of Hawaii Department of Health (DOH)."
The EPA and DOH held a series of meetings last month.
"As part the Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) agreement, we participated with Defense Logistics Agency, DOH and EPA in three days of meetings May 10-12, 2016 at the DOH offices. Subject matter experts from the University of Hawaii, BWS with their consultants, State Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), and United States Geological Survey also attended. During this same week the EPA also invited their consultants who will help with future Red Hill Facility inspections. EPA's consultants reported that the facility meets or exceeds all current industry standards for the storage and management of bulk fuel, and these experts found no immediate deficiencies requiring correction."
Fuller noted, "During the May meetings all attendees gave considerable attention to the topic of groundwater monitoring. As you may recall, the Navy installed two additional monitoring wells in the Red Hill area in October 2014, bringing the number of active monitoring wells to 10 total sampling locations. We will install four additional monitoring wells 2016-2017 for a new total of 14 monitoring points around the Facility. The regulatory agencies are now reviewing the work plan for the January 2014 fuel release investigation and potential remediation and, separately, the groundwater flow evaluation. The agencies are also evaluating comments by the BWS and their consultants."
"We continue to meet our commitments outlined in the AOC, including tank inspection, repair and maintenance procedures and the tank upgrade alternative reports. In early April the Navy and DLA submitted to EPA and DOH the first reports on the current release detection and tank tightness testing section as well as the current corrosion and metal fatigue practices section." Both of these reports are pending approval from the regulatory agencies, which also received comments and input from BWS. Fuller also noted, "We continued upgrading the facility's fire suppression, ventilation, and oil-tight door systems during the last few months. We also completed inspections and conducted maintenance upgrades to main pipelines to prevent potential leaks. We continue warranty repairs on Tank 5 and plan to put that tank back into service only after it is ready; we are targeting year's end," Fuller said.
The Navy and DLA remain committed to securing the funding necessary to fulfill obligations under the AOC as dictated by the Regulatory Agencies, according to Fuller. "We will continue to submit water test results to DOH and will promptly inform DOH, EPA and the public if there is ever any risk to our drinking water.
Beginning June 30 and through July the Navy will host the Rim of the Pacific exercise. Twenty-seven nations will participate in and around Hawaii, and RIMPAC 2016 is expected to bring tens of millions of dollars into the State. "Most importantly, this cooperation-building exercise, designed to strengthen peace, stability and understanding here in the Pacific, further underscores the strategic importance the Red Hill Facility continues to play in meeting our national and international defense obligations."
Fuller concluded his letter reiterating the Navy's commitment to "safeguarding our national interests, and ensuring the free flow of commerce so vital to us in Hawaii" while ensuring the drinking water remains safe.
"I am firmly committed to protect the drinking water in and around the Red Hill Facility. We will work collaboratively with the regulators under the AOC, and to continue keeping you informed along the way," Fuller said.
Both the first and second stakeholder letters from Rear Adm. Fuller, along with other information and photos, are available at www.cnic.navy.mil/redhill or www.epa.gov/region9/waste/ust/redhill/index.html.