IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
February 14, 2022
Mr. Schatz introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Armed Services
To direct the Secretary of the Navy to close the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Hawaii, and for other purposes.
This Act may be cited as the
Red Hill Watershed and Aquifer Initiative Act or the
Red Hill WAI Act.
Congress makes the following findings:
The Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility (in this section referred to as the
Red Hill facility) was constructed in September 1943.
The Red Hill facility was constructed underground in hollowed-out volcanic rock to allow for maximum protection of the fuel supply.
The 20 steel tanks of the Red Hill facility are encased by 2.5 to 4 feet of concrete and surrounded by basalt bedrock.
The Red Hill facility is the largest single fuel storage facility of the Department of Defense in the Pacific theater.
The Red Hill facility can store approximately 250,000,000 gallons of fuel. The fuels stored are marine diesel, F–76, and two types of jet fuel, JP–5 and JP–8.
The Red Hill facility is located approximately 100 feet above the basal groundwater table and sits directly above the federally designated sole-source groundwater aquifer of the island of Oahu, the Southern Oahu Basal Aquifer, which provides approximately 77 percent of the drinking water of Oahu.
Historic records compiled by the Navy in a 2008 groundwater protection plan indicate that the Red Hill facility has had dozens of fuel leaks dating back to 1947.
Fuel leaks from the Red Hill facility pose an existential threat to the federally designated sole-source groundwater aquifer of Oahu.
The Navy and the Defense Logistics Agency are responsible for protecting the public from unscheduled fuel leaks that may pose a risk to drinking water.
Until the mid-1980s, most underground storage tanks (in this section referred to as
USTs) were made of bare steel, which is likely to corrode over time and allow contents of USTs to leak into the environment. The greatest potential hazard from a leaking UST is that its contents (petroleum or other hazardous substances) can seep into the soil and contaminate groundwater, the source of drinking water for nearly half of all people in the United States.
To address a nationwide problem of leaking USTs, Congress passed a series of laws to protect human health and the environment, including the Solid Waste Disposal Act (Public Law 89–272), the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (Public Law 99–499), the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (Public Law 109–58), and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111–5) (commonly referred to as the
The State of Hawaii obtained Environmental Protection Agency State Program approval, effective on September 2, 2002, for the UST program of Hawaii to operate in lieu of the UST program of the Environmental Protection Agency.
In January 2014, The Red Hill facility leaked approximately 27,000 gallons of fuel.
In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency and the State of Hawaii Department of Health negotiated an enforceable agreement, an Administrative Order on Consent, with the Navy and the Defense Logistics Agency (EPA DKT NO. RCRA 7003–R9–2015–01/DOH DKT NO. 15–UST–EA–01).
The 2015 Administrative Order on Consent includes a Statement of Work that lays out the specific tasks the Navy and the Defense Logistics Agency must implement. The Statement of Work consists of eight sections on overall project management as follows:
Repair and maintenance.
Tank upgrade alternatives.
Release detection and tank tightness testing.
Corrosion and metal fatigue practices.
Investigation and remediation of releases.
Groundwater protection and evaluation.
Risk and vulnerability assessment.
On May 6, 2021, a burst pipeline in Red Hill spilled fuel into the lower access tunnel of the facility and the Navy failed to recover the entirety of the leaked fuel. Although the Navy initially estimated that 1,618 gallons of fuel spilled, with all but 38 gallons recovered, several months later, the amount of fuel spilled estimated by the Navy increased to 19,000 gallons, with most of the spilled fuel not recovered.
On November 20, 2021, the Navy announced a spill of 14,000 gallons of a water and fuel mixture from a fire suppression drain line located 0.25 miles downhill of the fuel tanks at Red Hill due to operator error.
On November 22, 2021, the Navy announced that the water and fuel mixture was removed from the tunnel and put into a storage tank above ground and that there were no signs that the fuel had escaped into the environment. The Navy communicated that the water was safe to drink.
On November 28, 2021, military families and civilians living in the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam military housing installation began reporting contaminated tap water.
Impacted families shared personal experiences of the immediate and ongoing health impacts of exposure to the contaminated water in their homes including chemical burns, stomach and head pain, dizziness and nauseousness, rashes, and more.
Families reported noxious odors in impacted homes that continued to make that housing unsuitable for many families.
After it was definitively confirmed that the Red Hill well was contaminated with petroleum, the State of Hawaii Department of Health issued an emergency order on December 6, 2021, to the Navy to suspend operations and defuel the Red Hill Facility. That emergency order was contested by the Navy in late December, and on January 3, 2022, it was reaffirmed by the State of Hawaii Department of Health in its final decision and order.
The December 6, 2021, emergency order has had broad support from the communities of Oahu, the Governor of Hawaii, the Department of Health of Hawaii, State Commission on Water Resource Management, the City and County Board of Water Supply, city council members, and State legislators. In short, the whole-of-government in Hawaii believes that the Navy should comply with the emergency order.
On December 7, 2021, the Navy announced that they will contest the order of the State of Hawaii to drain the fuel tanks.
On December 10, 2021, the Navy confirmed samples taken from the Navy Red Hill Shaft contained fuel levels 350 times more than the safe drinking limit in the State of Hawaii.
On February 2, 2022, the Department of Justice filed an appeal in both Federal and State court regarding the order of the State of Hawaii to defuel the Red Hill Facility.
Closure of Navy Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, Hawaii
The Secretary of the Navy shall—
discontinue all fuel operations at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Hawaii;
defuel all bulk fuel storage tanks located at the facility by not later than December 31, 2022; and
permanently close the facility in accordance with relevant regulations prescribed by the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Navy shall retain ownership and possession of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility and the property on which such facility is located.
Consistent with existing Navy and legal requirements, the Secretary of the Navy shall remain responsible for the environmental condition of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility.
The Navy shall be responsible for all cleanup costs associated with—
the fuel spill that occurred at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in November 2021; and
each spill or leak that occurred at the facility since the opening of the facility until November 2021.
Reimbursement of certain State and local entities
The Secretary of the Navy shall reimburse the Honolulu Board of Water Supply and the Hawaii State Departments of Health and Education for expenditures made in response to the threats posed by operations at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, including expenditures made to drill new drinking water wells and to install monitoring wells (both monitoring wells that were previously installed and to be installed).
The Secretary of the Navy shall conduct relevant near-to-mid term research relating to the environmental condition of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, including relating to hydrology and water monitoring.
Establishment of new facilities
The Secretary of the Navy, in coordination with the Director of the Office of Naval Research, shall establish, at the site of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility—
a water treatment facility; and
a permanent water quality testing facility.
Not later than 30 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and every 30 days thereafter until all bulk fuel storage tanks located at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility have been defueled, the Secretary of Defense shall provide a report and briefing on the progress toward such defueling to—
the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate; and
the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives.
Hawaii Department of Health Emergency Order
The Navy shall comply with the emergency order of the Hawaii Department of Health issued on December 6, 2021, which directs the Navy to carry out the following:
Immediately suspend operations at the bulk fuel storage tanks at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, including fuel transfers, and continue to maintain environmental and monitoring controls.
Take immediate steps to install a drinking water treatment system or systems at Red Hill Shaft to ensure distribution of drinking water conforms to the standards prescribed by the Safe Drinking Water Act and applicable Federal and State regulations. Those steps should also minimize movement of the contaminant plume or plumes.
Submit a workplan and implementation schedule prepared by a qualified independent third party approved by the State of Hawaii Department of Health, to assess the operations and system integrity to safely defuel the bulk fuel storage tanks at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility.
Upon approval by the State of Hawaii Department of Health of the assessment, workplan, and implementation schedule under paragraph (3), make necessary corrective actions to address any deficiencies as expeditiously as possible.
Not later than 30 days after completion of required corrective actions under paragraph (4), remove fuel from the bulk fuel storage tanks at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility.
Submit a workplan and implementation schedule prepared by a qualified independent third party approved by the State of Hawaii Department of Health, to assess operations and system integrity of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility to determine design and operational deficiencies that may impact the environment and develop recommendations for corrective action.
Upon approval by the State of Hawaii Department of Health of the assessment, workplan, and implementation schedule under paragraph (6), perform work and implement corrective actions as expeditiously as possible.
Authorization of appropriations
There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this section such sums as may be necessary for each of fiscal years 2023 through 2028.