The U.S. military plans to upgrade the Red Hill underground fuel storage tanks over the next 20 years as part of a new agreement with the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Hawaii Department of Health.

The underground storage tanks, which can hold 250 million gallons of fuel, leaked 27,000 gallons in January 2014, raising concerns about potential contamination of Oahu’s water supply. The spill was the latest of dozens of leaks over 70 years.

“This agreement will ensure the safety of Oahu’s drinking water supply, while allowing the Red Hill tanks to remain in use as a resource for our national defense,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest, in a press release issued jointly by the EPA and DOH on Monday. “EPA and the Department of Health will remain vigilant during this long-term effort to protect the public health and Hawaii’s precious aquifers.”

Red Hill map


The agreement between the EPA, DOH, U.S. Navy and Defense Logistics Agency is known as an Administrative Order on Consent under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The public can comment on the settlement over the next 30 days, as well as discuss it at a meeting on June 18 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Moanalua Middle School cafeteria.

As part of the agreement, the military will install better technology to detect and prevent spills, with oversight from the EPA and DOH. The military may be fined if the work doesn’t meet certain deadlines and standards.

The military will also conduct a two-year study of the hydrogeology of Red Hill, past contamination by fuel leaks, cleanup methods and risks to Oahu’s drinking water. The study will additionally evaluate options for upgrading the tanks, which should be completed in phases over the next two decades.

The EPA-DOH press release didn’t include specific cost estimates for the work but said that the upgrades may cost tens of millions of dollars. The announcement noted that the Navy also plans to inspect the tanks twice a year rather than just once.

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