February 15, 2022

Senator Hirono Questions Department of Defense Nominees on Red Hill Crisis at Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) highlighted the Red Hill water contamination crisis as she questioned Robert Storch, nominee to be Inspector General of the DoD, and Christopher Lowman, nominee to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment. Senator Hirono inquired about the continuation of the Inspector General (IG) investigation into operations at Red Hill and potential strategies to address any long-term impacts, should the State elect to shut down the Red Hill facility. A link to download video of the exchange is available here.

In December, the DoD IG announced their intent to open an investigation into the Navy’s ability to safely operate Red Hill at the request of Senator Hirono and the Hawaii Congressional delegation.  Today, Senator Hirono asked Mr. Storch, if confirmed, whether he would commit to continuing the current investigation into Red Hill. The Senator emphasized the importance of completing the investigation, regardless of whether the facility is allowed to continue its operations.

“The people of Hawaii deserve answers about what happened in order to mend the distrust of the military that has resulted from this crisis,” Senator Hirono said.

Senator Hirono then asked Mr. Lowman how he would develop a solution for strategic fuel reserves and meet other fueling requirements in the Indo Pacific region, in the likely event that the State of Hawaii declines to give the Red Hill facility a permit to continue operations.  

“At the end of the day, the health and safety of the people of Hawaii – and military members and their families – is my top priority […] A fundamental component of health and safety is access to clean drinking water, a goal we should all be focused on,” said Senator Hirono.

A link to a video of the exchange is available here and a transcript of Senator Hirono’s opening remarks is available below.

“I am not sure how familiar you are with Red Hill; it is a massive underground fuel storage facility consisting of 20 massive World War II tanks located 100 feet over Oahu’s aquifer that holds 250 million gallons of fuel to support military operations across the Indo-Pacific.”

“This storage facility has contaminated the Navy’s water system, displacing almost 4,000 families since December. As a result, the State of Hawaii has directed the Navy to defuel the tanks.”

“The Department of Defense estimates the costs of the crisis response alone, to date, at almost $500 million dollars and that does not include defueling the tanks or the cost of upgrades to do so safely. The Navy must immediately resolve the drinking water crisis and the Department of Defense must develop a long-term plan for strategic fuel storage.”

“The people of Hawaii deserve a resolution to the Red Hill crisis as quickly as possible, including a decision regarding the potential closing of Red Hill. The fastest way to do this is through the State of Hawaii’s ongoing hearing to determine whether to provide or deny a permit to operate Red Hill.”

“At the end of the day, the health and safety of the people of Hawaii – and military members and their families – is my top priority, a goal shared by the Secretary of Defense. A fundamental component of health and safety is access to clean drinking water – a goal we should all be focused on.”  

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