Navy offers updated plan to reinforce Honolulu fuel storage

HONOLULU — The U.S. Navy is considering a plan to use double-wall tanks to upgrade a fuel storage facility in Honolulu, officials said.

The Navy updated its initial proposal to reinforce tanks at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, Hawaii Public Radio reported Thursday.

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If the upgrade cannot be completed, the Navy will relocate the fuel in the facility’s 20 tanks that lie beneath the Southern Oahu Basal Aquifer, the main source of drinking water for more than 750,000 Oahu residents, officials said.

A 2014 leak of 27,000 gallons of fuel at the facility prompted calls for improvements from councilors and residents.

The Navy’s Sept. 9 proposal had favored single-wall tank upgrades with added monitoring features. The plan was rejected by a Honolulu City Council committee last month and was opposed by the Board of Water Supply.

The deadline for tank upgrades is 2037, but the Navy proposed an extended timeline to 2045. The “technology does not currently exist” for a fiscally responsible approach to secondary containment, regional engineer Capt. Marc Delao previously said.

Delao told City Council members Wednesday that the Navy’s new approach is a commitment to pursue a secondary-containment solution “using research, using select investments, academia and industry.”

“And if that becomes mission impossible, or unattainable — not available, not practicable — then, again, what has changed is that commitment that we will de-fuel and get off the aquifer around 2045,” Delao said.

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Board of Water Supply Chief Engineer Ernie Lau expressed concerns about what the Navy defines as a secondary-containment system and its timetable.

“Secondary containment is actually practicable. It can be done,” Lau said. “It is a matter of will, and also how many dollars do you want to spend on doing that.”

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