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Red Hill defueling progresses

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(The Center Square) – The Hawaii Department of Health gave conditional approval to U.S. Navy officials to defuel surge tanks next to the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility.

The process will begin on Monday and take about a week, according to the DOH.

The tanks are separate from the main tanks and contain about 480,000 gallons of fuel.

“DOH staff will be conducting on-site visits during surge tank defueling operations as part of our overall commitment to ensuring that Red Hill is defueled safely,” said Deputy Director of Environmental Health Kathleen Ho.

The Joint Task Force-Red Hill must submit additional documentation before defueling, according to the DOH.

The problems at Red Hill began with a fuel leak at the facility in November of 2021 that forced thousands of residents from their homes. The DOH issued an order in May 2022 requiring the facility’s closure.

The surge tanks are part of the overall defueling process of the tanks at Red Hill. The DOH tentatively approved the Joint Task Force’s plan for removing 104 million gallons of fuel from the site last month.

The plan proposes a start date of October for defueling the main tanks, months ahead of the original schedule to start in June 2024.

The Joint Task Force said last month that 253 mandatory repairs were done.

“Completing the repairs paved the way for us to safely proceed with defueling operations – an immense undertaking ensuring the facility’s safety and mitigating potential risks,” said Vice Adm. John Wade, Commander, JTF-RH, in a news release. “A coordinated effort involving a team of highly skilled professionals, industry experts, and regulatory bodies collaborated to achieve this milestone.”

The defueling could be complete by January 19, according to the task force.

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