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200 turn out to learn details of proposed fuel spill agreement

    EPA, Assistant Director, Land Division, Pacific Southwest Tom Huetteman speaks in front of approximately 200 people who attended a public hearing on the U.S. Navy’s plan to fix the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Facility storage tank leak was held at Moanalua Middle School on Thursday evening.

About 200 concerned citizens turned out for a public hearing held by the Environmental Protection Agency to hear public comment on a measure that is supposed to address the damage caused by a 27,000-gallon fuel spill at the Navy’s Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in 2014 and to prevent any future spills by the Navy.

Many expressed concern at the EPA meeting at Moanalua Middle School on Thursday night about the health effects of the fuel in drinking water and the contamination of the land.

Alison Bhattacharya, a cancer survivor, said she wonders where cancer and so many other diseases come from. “Maybe it comes from drinking jet fuel in your water.”

She criticized the proposed 20-year implementation plan by the Navy saying, “It’s not fast enough.”

Patricia Beekman said: “I’m concerned about the possible ruin of our water. When I was going to school, I thought it was considered one the best in the world.

“The fuel release from the tank was through three pinholes,” she said. “ … 27,000 gallons (was released) through three pinholes? How did 27,000 gallons get released without any notice?”

The Board of Water Supply fueled some of the fervor by sending out a letter to all 170,000 Oahu customers advising them of the public hearing, that they should be concerned about water quality since the Red Hill fuel tanks are 100 feet above the groundwater aquifer it uses to provide 25 percent of the supply for customers from Moanalua to Hawaii Kai. BWS says it is testing the wells in the area and assures the water is safe.

But it did say the fuel leaks have occurred in the past and the groundwater beneath the tanks are contaminated with fuel, which poses a serious threat to the aquifer’s long-term ability to provide safe drinking water.

The Board of Water Supply rejected the agreement. BWS Manager and Chief Engineer Ernest Lau said it “lacks public transparency, corrective action specificity, and the immediate implementation of improvements that will protect our groundwater and environment.”

He said studies could take years, and the proposed consent agreement needs to require cleanup of the contamination that is presently in the groundwater and rocks underneath the tanks to reduce the amount available for migration to those parts of the aquifer that are still uncontaminated.”

He got a rousing applause from the meeting attendants.

The Navy reported that the Red Hill Shaft Drinking water that serves Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam met state and federal standards and an independent laboratory had no fuel contamination since the spill was reported Jan. 13, 2014.

The Navy and Defense Logistics Agency has agreed to the proposed consent agreement for improving technology to better prevent and detect leaks and will include remediation

The public has until June 30 to comment on the plan, unless the comment period is extended. The 30-day comment period began June 1.

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