A day after the Hawaii Department of Health doubled down on its order to the Navy to empty its Red Hill fuel facility, Hawaii’s congressional delegation is advising the military to do as its told.

Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono and U.S. Reps. Ed Case and Kai Kahele released a joint statement on Tuesday morning voicing their support for DOH’s directive.

U.S. Reps Ed Case and Kai Kahele visited the Red Hill Underground Bulk Fuel Storage Facility on Dec. 15, 2021 amid a water contamination crisis that has impacted nearly 100,000 people.
U.S. Reps Ed Case and Kai Kahele visited the Red Hill Underground Bulk Fuel Storage Facility on Dec. 15, 2021. Courtesy: Case and Kahele/2021

“The Navy must fully comply with the order and begin the process of planning and executing the safe removal of fuel that continues to pose a threat to O‘ahu’s drinking water,” they said.

“Defueling safely will require a coordinated effort, and the delegation will do everything possible to support this effort. Clean drinking water is essential to our health and safety, and our future — we all agree this cannot be compromised for anything.”

It’s a noteworthy change in position for the congressional delegation. Late last year, before the water contamination crisis came to light, Hirono and Case were not in favor of moving the fuel. In general, the delegation has advocated for facility improvements, not its closure.

Under the order, the Navy has 30 days to submit a plan to “safely defuel” its World War II-era fuel facility.

The Navy can also appeal DOH’s final order to the Hawaii Circuit Court within the next 30 days, according to DOH. But the order will remain in effect unless it is stayed by a court, DOH said.

A Navy spokesman Lt. Michael Valania declined to comment on the delegation’s statement and said only that the Navy is reviewing the emergency order.

Not a subscription

Civil Beat is a small nonprofit newsroom, and we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content because we believe in journalism as a public service.
 
That’s why donations from readers like you are essential to our continued existence.
 
Help keep our journalism free for all readers by becoming a monthly member of Civil Beat today.

About the Author