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Updated plan says Red Hill defueling could begin in October

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(The Center Square) – The Department of Defense said defueling would begin in October at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Hawaii, months earlier than expected.

About 104 million gallons of fuel will be removed from the site by January, according to the new plan. The original plan anticipated the defueling to begin in June 2024.

“To avoid any confusion or ambiguity and in the spirit of transparency, DoD acknowledges the probability that a substantial amount of fuel (between 100,000 and 400,000 gallons) will remain in RHBFSF at the conclusion of this stage of defueling,” the DOD said in a news release.

Thousands of residents were forced from their homes after a fuel leak at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in November 2021. The Hawaii Department of Health issued an order in May 2022 that requires the DOD to close the facility and defuel it.

More than 1,100 gallons of aqueous film-forming foam were released in a separate incident a year later, in November 2022. The 2022 incident occurred when 1,300 gallons of aqueous film forming foam “pooled on the floor inside the facility and then seeped under a door and onto a paved access road as well as soil on the edge of the paved road outside of Adit 6,” the DOD said in a report released earlier this month.

“A focused investigation allowed us to effectively determine how and why the release occurred,” said Vice Adm. John Wade, commander of the Joint Task Force-Red Hill, in a statement. “We used this information to immediately implement risk reduction measures across the entire facility and to notify the Department of Defense (DoD) of actions that can be taken to further reduce risk in areas outside the purview of JTF-RH.”

The fate of the facility is not decided. Interested people have until May 31 to tell the Navy how they want to see it used. The Navy, DOD, Environmental Protection Agency and others will use the survey results when discussing the fuel storage facility’s fate, according to the DOD.

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