US Navy challenges Hawaii orders to suspend and drain fuel tanks – .

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US Navy challenges Hawaii orders to suspend and drain fuel tanks – .


HONOLULU – The US Navy challenges Hawaii’s orders to suspend and drain fuel tanks at a complex above an aquifer that provides nearly 20% of Honolulu’s drinking water to ‘certain conditions are met.

The Navy has previously said it is suspending use of the massive WWII fuel storage complex near Pearl Harbor after days of complaints that tap water smelled of fuel and made some people sick.

But the Hawaii state government order requires the suspension to remain in effect until independent assessors can ensure appropriate action is taken to protect drinking water.

The state also wants the Navy to treat contaminated drinking water and remove fuel from the 20 huge underground storage tanks at the complex called the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility.

Decommissioning the storage facility could affect operations at a critical time for the Navy, especially as tensions rise in the Pacific with Chinese rhetoric over Taiwan escalating over the past year. said Lyle Goldstein, Pacific Ocean Maritime Security Officer and Asia Director. Focus group on engagement within the think tank on defense priorities.

The Hawaii Department of Health on Monday ordered the Navy to suspend fuel facility operations, citing the governor’s power to act if there is “an imminent danger to human health and safety or environment ”caused by a leak or the operation of an underground storage tank system.

The order came shortly after Navy officials said they had already suspended operations at the fuel complex. The state’s health department set a hearing for Tuesday afternoon, but it was postponed after the Navy informed state officials it planned to challenge the emergency order.

Navy officials did not respond to emails and phone messages asking for comment on why the order was being contested on Tuesday, even though use of the fuel complex was already suspended.

“The well-being of Hawaii and the safety of our residents, including military families, must come first. We cannot have national security without ensuring public health and safety, ”Governor David Ige, a Democrat, said in a statement.

In announcing the closure of the complex that supplies fuel to US military ships and planes patrolling the Pacific, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro did not say on Monday how long that would last, but insisted that the impact of the cut on military operations would “have a very minimal impact, if any, for the moment.” “

But Goldstein, of Asia Engagement at Defense Priorities, said losing the option to use the refueling complex poses a strategic challenge to the U.S. military’s ability to operate effectively.

“Hawaii is probably the most important US base in the entire Asia-Pacific region, so this is definitely a big challenge for the navy,” he said. “I cannot stress enough that the fleet cannot run without fuel and the amount of fuel consumed is really huge. I don’t think people realize what it takes to keep a bunch of carriers moving and flying. “

Although the Navy uses nuclear powered aircraft carriers, immense amounts of traditional fuel are required for aircraft operating from aircraft carriers and for the ships protecting them. Navy submarines are nuclear powered and would not be affected, Goldstein said.

Del Toro said he “didn’t want to bring up topics with conversations about how long we can continue to do so for national security reasons, but there really is no minimum operation for the activities. of our fleet or activities impacting the Air Force or the Army or Marine Corps in the short term. “

The Roosevelt administration during World War II ordered the construction of the Red Hill underground facility. Experts said that Japan, in its attack on Pearl Harbor, could have caused much more damage and possibly changed the outcome of the war if it had attacked the fuel storage in Hawaii instead of US ships.

Ige was not available for further comment on Tuesday on the state’s efforts to suspend use of the fuel tank complex as he participated in the events marking the 80th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, the state said. Ige spokesperson Cindy McMillan.

The Navy’s water supply system serves approximately 93,000 people in and around Pearl Harbor, and nearly 1,000 military households have complained about tap water. Some said they had recently suffered from physical problems such as cramps and vomiting after drinking it.

Testing of water samples last week showed the presence of oil in water from a well near the underground fuel tank complex that has been the source of multiple fuel leaks over the years. years.

Del Toro said Monday that officials were close to determining the cause of the problem and that when the investigation is complete and reviewed, the Navy will adopt water safety precautions.

He apologized for what he called a “horrible, horrible tragedy”.

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Watson reported from San Diego.

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