Congress has budgeted over $686 million to respond to the Navy’s water contamination crisis in Honolulu, Hawaii’s U.S. Sens. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz announced Wednesday.

The Department of Defense said earlier this week that it plans to permanently close the World War II-era facility that leaked fuel into the Pearl Harbor area’s water supply. Hirono’s office said there is now $686,429,000 in the fiscal year 2022 omnibus spending bill to address the crisis and next steps.

The precise cost of addressing the Navy’s contamination is unclear, but it’s unlikely the budgeted funds will be enough to meet the needs, which will include draining the massive tanks and dealing with potential environmental problems.

Senator Mazie Hirono speaks to media during a press conference held with EPA officials at the Federal Building.
Senator Mazie Hirono said she worked with members of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the White House to secure the funds. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Hirono alluded to the need for future funding.

“This $686 million is an important step, but there is still a lot of work left to be done to safely defuel, permanently close the facility, and remediate any environmental contamination concerns,” Hirono said in a statement. “This will require direction and oversight by Congress in the out years to provide funding to ensure it is completed.”

Her office said the funding includes $510.4 million to support the thousands of military families and others who were affected and to carry out remediation and recovery efforts, such as water monitoring, treatment and hydrogeology and corrosion studies.

Another $100 million will be allocated for the secretary of defense to comply with the Hawaii Department of Health’s emergency order requiring that the underground tanks be emptied. The order was issued in December after military families began smelling fuel in their tap water.

In addition, $71 million will be used for environmental and restoration efforts outside of the Red Hill well, such as aquifer remediation; and $5 million to “re-execute” an operational risk assessment as ordered by the Administrative Order of Consent to identify engineering defects across Red Hill.

The funds are included in the $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill, which funds federal agencies for the remainder of the fiscal year. The U.S. House is preparing to vote on the package ahead of a Friday deadline for Congress to pass the legislation to avert a partial government shutdown.

There is also $85.25 million for “emergencies and extraordinary expenses” to provide immediate financial assistance to impacted residents for whom no other form of federal funding is authorized, but that’s from existing funds and not new appropriations, according to Hirono’s office.

The bill also directs the secretary of defense to provide the congressional defense committees with information about all options the defense department is considering regarding fuel storage and future plans for Red Hill, Hirono’s office said.

“This is new federal money to defuel and permanently shut down Red Hill,” Schatz said in a statement. “We still have more work to do to make sure Red Hill is closed safely, but we now have significant resources to drain the tanks and get this right.”

In a statement, Hawaii health department spokeswoman Kaitlin Arita-Chang said the state appreciates the federal support and advocacy from the congressional delegation to address the Red Hill contamination.

“It’s too soon to estimate a total cost of the cleanup, remediation, and expenses incurred by regulators,” she said. “DOH will continue to hold the Navy accountable to pay for these expenses.”

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