Outcry against the Navy’s Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility on Oahu has spread to the other islands.

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The Maui County Council unanimously passed a resolution Friday “urging the United States Navy to permanently remove and relocate” the underground tanks that contaminated some of Honolulu’s drinking water supply.

The resolution, introduced by Council member Shane Sinenci of East Maui, marks Maui County’s alliance with a chorus of environmentalists, politicians, state Department of Health officials and Honolulu water officials who have raised concerns about the leak from the Navy’s tanks. It follows a statement Tuesday from progressive activists, including Noam Chomsky and Cornel West, calling for the facility’s closure and “full reparations for its victims.”

Maui County Council members voted unanimously Friday in support of a resolution about the Navy’s underground fuel tanks at Red Hill. Screenshot/2022

The council’s resolution is a largely symbolic show of support for the Department of Health, which on Dec. 6 ordered the Navy to “immediately suspend operations at the Red Hill Facility and, within 30 days, submit a work plan and implementation schedule prepared by a third party to defuel storage tanks at Kapukaki,” the resolution states. The resolution also presses for the U.S. Congress to pass legislation that would plan, fund and implement the decommissioning and relocation of the Red Hill facility.

The Hawaii congressional delegation threw its support behind DOH earlier this week.

In an Instagram post Thursday, Sinenci urged county residents to testify: “Water is Life! Water is a Public Trust Kuleana!” he wrote. “Please help us by providing your testimony this Friday.”

Around 70 testifiers were registered on Friday, but only a half-dozen spoke about the Red Hill resolution, all supporting it. Most of the testimony regarded the mayor’s veto of a moratorium on hotel development.

“As a watershed advocate, I support the removal,” said Maui resident David Dorn. “We have to stop the contamination now for future generations.”

Council member Tamara Paltin called the situation at Red Hill a “war crime.”

“This is a crime of historic proportion against humanity,” Paltin said, though not one that surprised her, considering the Navy’s legacy in the islands. “We’re still cleaning up Kahoolawe.”

Council member Keani Rawlins-Fernandez said, “The military is supposed to protect us” from situations like what has occurred at Red Hill.

Rawlins-Fernandez stressed the importance of calling Red Hill by its Hawaiian name, Kapukaki, to prevent further “erasure.”

The resolution will be transmitted to various federal politicians, including Chuck Schumer, Kamala Harris and Joe Biden.

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by a grant from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation.


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