A photo of the lower access tunnel of the Red Hill fuel storage facility in Honolulu.

A photo of the lower access tunnel of the Red Hill fuel storage facility in Honolulu. (U.S. Navy)

HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is holding two meetings next week to give the public an opportunity to weigh in and ask questions about a proposed settlement agreement with the Navy and Defense Logistics Agency that requires them to take steps to ensure the safe defueling and closure of the Red Hill underground fuel storage facility.

The agreement also requires the Navy to ensure the safe operation of its Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam drinking water system.

A town hall meeting is scheduled for the Oahu Veterans Center — Ballard Hall on Jan. 18 from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. where the EPA and military representatives plan to provide a presentation about the agreement, followed by an “open mic” question and answer session, according to an EPA press release.

A second open house meeting will be held at the same location on Jan. 19 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. where the public can speak directly with officials from the EPA, Navy, Joint Task Force-Red Hill, the Defense Logistics Agency and Hawaii Department of Health on various topics, such as new and existing enforcement orders related to Red Hill, defuelingand drinking water.

The public can also submit comments on the 2023 proposed consent order through Feb. 6 at this link.

The EPA, along with DOH, has regulatory authority over the Navy’s Red Hill fuel facility. In 2021, fuel leaks from the facility contaminated the drinking water system serving Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and surrounding neighborhoods and ultimately led to an order from the Pentagon to permanently shut down Red Hill.

The EPA’s proposed agreement, called an administrative consent order, adds another layer of federal oversight of the defueling operation. However, it’s already been criticized by officials from the Hawaii Sierra Club and Honolulu Board of Water Supply who say it doesn’t go far enough to hold the Navy accountable.

BWS, in a press release last month, said it was “extremely disappointed” by the agreement, which “lacks details, clear timelines, strict penalties, and public transparency.”

(c)2023 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

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