Mar 8, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Pentagon to close Hawaii fuel facility that contaminated drinking water

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaking at the Pentagon in January 2022.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaking at the Pentagon in January. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Department of Defense will permanently close a World War II-era bulk fuel storage facility in Hawaii that leaked petroleum into the local drinking water supply last year, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced Monday.

Why it matters: Water samples from a Navy-operated well serving military families contained diesel fuel 350 times the safe level, and thousands of families had to temporarily move from their homes near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam because of the leak, according to the New York Times.

What they're saying: "Red Hill has served our armed forces well for many decades. But it makes a lot less sense now," Austin said in a statement.

  • "We will continue our work with the Hawaii Department of Health, national and local elected officials, and other community leaders, to clean up the water at the Red Hill well. And we will develop an environmental mitigation plan to address any future contamination concerns," he added.
  • "This is great news for the people of Hawai'i," Gov. David Ige said in a tweet. "Our national defense begins with the health and safety of our people, and there are better solutions for strategic fueling today than there were when the Red Hill storage facility was built."

The big picture: The secretary of the Navy and the Defense Logistics Agency will submit a plan to de-fuel the facility by the end of May, a process that the Pentagon believes will take around a year.

  • The Defense Department said it "will also restore safe drinking water to all affected residents and provide best-in-class sampling and testing to ensure the continued safety of drinking water."

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