Safety stakeholder representatives and first responders conduct a safety walk-through at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Halawa, Hawaii, Oct. 12, 2022.

Safety stakeholder representatives and first responders conduct a safety walk-through at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Halawa, Hawaii, Oct. 12, 2022. (Matthew Mackintosh/U.S. Army)

(Tribune News Service) — Congress is poised to allocate another $1 billion to shutting down the Navy's Red Hill fuel facility.

The funding is expected to cover major repairs to the facility's pipelines and other infrastructure that will facilitate the safe draining of approximately 104 million gallons of fuel from aging underground tanks, as well as remediating the soil and groundwater that's been polluted by past fuel spills.

The funding is included in the annual appropriations bill, which is expected to be signed by Friday by President Joe Biden.

"This is new federal funding to drain and permanently shut down Red Hill," said U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, in a news release. "We still have more work to do to make sure Red Hill is closed as quickly and safely as possible, and now we have even more resources to help in that effort."

Congress already appropriated $1.1 billion for the 2022 fiscal year for closing Red Hill and covering the costs of reimbursing military families who were displaced from their homes after fuel from the facility contaminated the Navy's drinking water system serving Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and surrounding neighborhoods in November 2020.

A breakdown of how the $2.2 billion in current and future funds has and will be spent was not immediately available Tuesday. The Navy said it needed more time to track down that information.

In order to safely defuel the facility, the Navy has identified about 250 needed repairs, ranging from the minor tightening of fasteners to more extensive repairs that require design work.

Many of those repairs were identified by a third-party contractor, Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, in a report released in May. As of earlier this month, 25 of the repairs have been completed, and another 70 are in progress, according to Vice Adm. John Wade, commander of a joint task force overseeing the defueling and permanent closure of Red Hill, who spoke with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser's "Spotlight Hawaii" live ­stream program last week.

He said the remainder of the repairs are going through contract negotiations.

It's not clear how much those repairs are expected to cost. In June, Hawaii Congressman Kai Kahele told the Star-Advertiser that it could cost upward of $100 million. In September the Pentagon estimated the cost of defueling at $280 million, according to Hawaii News Now, though it's not clear how much of that would be for repairs.

Under a proposed defueling plan that still needs to be approved by the state Department of Health, the Navy would complete repairs by the end of 2023 and then begin draining the fuel from the tanks in February 2024, a process expected to take about four months.

The Navy is also working with the Health Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on remediating the soil and groundwater in the vicinity of the tanks. Navy documents indicate that there were likely dozens of leaks at the facility since it was built in the 1940s, raising concerns that the spilled fuel could migrate into the aquifer and into drinking water supplies. The funding is expected to be used for monitoring wells for tracking contamination and cleanup operations.

The Navy and Defense Logistics Agency also signed on to a consent decree with the EPA on Tuesday that lays out various requirements it must comply with as it defuels and permanently shuts down Red Hill, including continuing to check for potential leaks while the fuel remains in the tanks and inspection requirements after tanks are drained. The agreement also lays out requirements for ensuring the safety of its drinking water system.

The EPA is required to give the public 30 days to comment on the agreement and hold a public meeting, after which it may amend it.

The agreement was immediately panned by the Hawaii Sierra Club and Earthjustice, an environmental law firm. In a joint statement issued Tuesday, the environmental groups criticized the EPA for drafting the agreement without consulting with the Honolulu Board of Water Supply or community.

"We are disappointed that even after the U.S. Navy poisoned thousands of people and contaminated our sole source aquifer, the EPA has put forward a proposed consent decree without consulting the Board of Water Supply or any representatives from the community who for years have been sounding the alarm over the Navy's Red Hill Facility," they said in the statement.

"As a result, federal officials have developed yet another toothless and potentially dangerous agreement, that would tolerate keeping our water, our island home, and our very way of life at risk of devastation for well over a year if not much, much longer."

The EPA didn't immediately respond to a request to comment.

(c)2022 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Visit The Honolulu Star-Advertiser at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now