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Hawaii News

2 measures to monitor military fuel tanks OK’d

Three state Senate committees jointly passed two bills aimed at helping Hawaii protect against fuel leaks from underground storage tanks owned by the military.

The move came last week amid concern for the safety of water supplies after the Navy in 2014 detected a leak of 27,000 gallons from a Red Hill tank that sits atop a large aquifer.

The legislation would create Department of Health positions to monitor the Navy’s fulfillment of an agreement aimed at preventing and detecting leaks from 20 giant fuel storage tanks built into the side of a mountain at Red Hill. The agreement, reached among the Navy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Health last year, calls for studying options for upgrading the tanks and then fixing them over the next 20 years.

The bill calls for hiring an engineer, geologist and environmental health specialist and for appropriating $300,000 for operations.

Sen. Rosalyn Baker, a Democrat representing South and West Maui, said it would be noted that lawmakers would prefer the funds be included in the state’s budget because monitoring the Navy’s progress will be a long-term activity.

The bill was amended to remove language calling for the construction of two monitoring wells near Red Hill. Lawmakers cited Department of Health testimony reporting the Navy will be building at least four monitoring wells and is required to build others as necessary, so the provision isn’t needed.

Navy Capt. Mark Manfredi, chief of staff at Navy Region Hawaii, told lawmakers there was no indication any Red Hill tanks are currently leaking. He said there was also no indication the tanks are actively corroding, and that the Navy would test to ensure the tanks remain tight.

The three committees, which are responsible for health, military and environmental issues at the state Senate, also passed a bill creating a panel of military and state officials to study underground fuel tank leaks at military facilities.

The panel would study the short- and long-term effects of leaks and strategies to limit the effects of leaks. The group would include representatives from the Navy, Army and Air Force and state agencies. Its coverage area would include Red Hill, Pearl Harbor, Hickam and Schofield Barracks on Oahu and the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai.

Both bills were sent to the Senate Ways and Means Committee for consideration.

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