Ann Wright responds to a “caution” buried in a voluminous national security law about what might prevent the closure of the U.S. military’s spill-prone Red Hill jet-fuel tanks.
By Ann Wright
Buried deep in the 4,408 pages of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is a “hidden” caution concerning the closing and de-fueling of the Red Hill jet fuel tanks, a source of drinking water contamination in 2021.
According to March 5 reporting by the Honolulu Star Advertiser, the DNAA requires that before defueling of the Red Hill jet fuel tanks, a certification from DOD is required, saying that closing Red Hill will not affect Indo-Pacific military operations.
For citizens here this is alarming. This requirement should not be surfacing months after the passage of the NDAA.
Despite intense public interest in the defueling and closing of the Red Hill facilities, Sen. Mazie Hirono made no mention of this in her December 2022 press release about the $1 billion for the defueling and closure of Red Hill and $800 million for other military infrastructure upgrades in Hawaii passed in the NDAA for 2023.
The Star Advertiser article quotes Hirono saying she “didn’t advocate for the notification requirement,” but her office said it was a priority of the Republicans and was agreed to as a compromise to ensure Hirono’s other Red Hill provisions made it in to the NDAA.
No DOD Decision on Signing the Certification
The military certainly didn’t mention the certification requirement either.
The Defense Department has been making extensive repairs to the tanks that it maintains are necessary to safely defuel the tanks, repairs that were not considered necessary in using fuel from the tanks prior to the November 2021 spill.
This repair work coupled with the department’s plans to keep the tank and pipe infrastructure in the ground after defueling, has raised concerns. Could the fuel facility be used again by the U.S. military despite its officials saying they plan to make the tanks unusable for fuel storage?
With comments about Chinese aggression coming daily from the Department of Defense and State Department officials, the multiple U.S. and NATO naval armadas in the South China Sea and large ground military war games on the Korean peninsula, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s decision to not yet sign the certification is an indication that DOD could again play its national security card.
Admiral John Wade, commander of the Red Hill Joint Task Force, said he would be forthcoming about the clean-up of the multiple disasters at Red Hill. But neither he nor his staff have won trust with the community.
In addition to keeping silent on the certification requirement, the task force has failed to issue timely statements on events concerning Red Hill contamination and defueling, as well as the recent spill of 1,300 gallons of AFFF/PFAS. The last press release on the spill was two months ago, on Dec. 27, 2022.
The Navy has not made the video of the AFFF spill public and has not completed its investigation of the spill, requiring an extension from the Department of Health. Nor has the task force revealed where the 3,000 cubic feet of AFFF contaminated soil was moved either on Oahu or to the mainland.
In contrast, the locations of disposal for the contaminated soil removed from the East Palestine, Ohio, chemical train wreck was publicized immediately and several states objected to disposal in their toxic waste locations.
Ann Wright is a retired U.S. Army reserve colonel and a former U.S. diplomat. She resigned from the U.S. government 20 years ago in opposition to the U.S. war on Iraq. She has lived in Honolulu for 20 years. She is a member of Hawaii Peace and Justice, Veterans for Peace and Oahu Water Protectors and the author of Dissent: Voices of Conscience.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.