Thousands of people were poisoned by the US Navy’s Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, yet over 100 million of gallons of fuel remain in the tanks— every day threatening the safety of Oʻahu’s drinking water supply and life as we know it.
In November 2021, a fuel leak from the US Navy’s Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility poisoned the water system for nearly 100,000 residents, sending thousands to seek medical support as they suffered from acute petroleum exposure. Thousands, including children, pregnant women, service members, and pets experienced headaches, rashes, vomiting, dizziness, and breathing difficulties for weeks and months on end. Some continue to suffer from complications over a year later, while others are still experiencing symptoms of petroleum exposure despite Navy claims that the water is safe to consume.
The contamination forced the Board of Water Supply to indefinitely shut down adjacent municipal wells, including its major Hālawa shaft, plunging Oʻahu into a water crisis that threatens water conservation mandates and shutdowns for many years to come.
People power prevails, but Red Hill isn’t pau yet
In the weeks following the leak, the people of Oʻahu came together demanding justice and seeking answers as their anger and fear grew. Calls to shut down the Red Hill facility were echoing from almost every level of decision maker, culminating in an emergency order from the Governor, directing the Navy to defuel the tanks.
Still yet, the Navy denied and resisted; the same Navy officials that refuted that Red Hill was dangerous for years, continued to fight to keep the tanks in operation, despite sickening thousands, including many of their own friends and families.
Pressure mounted as the people’s demands reached President Biden, the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of the Navy, while the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi took to the courts to ensure the emergency order was upheld. Finally, over a month after fuel contaminated the drinking water, the Navy agreed to follow the emergency order and defuel the tanks. But it isn’t over yet.
Two years too long, our water can’t wait
The Navy has committed to defueling the Red Hill tanks by July 2024. Every day that the fuel remains in the Red Hill tanks is another day that Oʻahu’s drinking water future remains in danger. Once fuel has reached the water supply, it cannot be removed and it is still unclear how fuel moves through the underground aquifers. Meaning that the potential for widespread fuel contamination is great.
Together, we must see to it that the Navy acts with the urgency and meticulousness that this issue deserves—that they treat it like our lives depend on it—because they do. Holding the Navy accountable takes everyone. Please, for the love of water and the future generations, sign up to stay in the know on the latest actions and updates and tell everyone who will listen that […]
Full article: sierraclubhawaii.org