US military withdraws appeal to Hawaii in order to drain fuel tanks

The U.S. government has dropped appeals to a Hawaii order that required it to remove fuel from a huge military fuel storage facility.

US military withdraws appeal to Hawaii in order to drain fuel tanks

This facility leaked petroleum into Pearl Harbor's water system last year.

The U.S. Department of Defense's attorneys notified federal and state courts of the decision. This move comes nearly a month after Lloyd Austin, Defense Secretary, stated that the military would shut down all tanks permanently and drain all fuel.

The Hawaii Department of Health issued the order. It stated that the decision about Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility was "a step forward."

The department stated that "While today's announcement was good news, work continues." It stated that it would continue to "act expeditiously, proactively to supervise the safe defueling of Red Hill's and the restoration of the aquifer."

David Henkin is an attorney at Earthjustice who represents the Sierra Club of Hawaii in this case. He said that his clients will remain vigilant to ensure the tanks are defueled promptly.

Henkin stated that the water system is a great Earth Day gift for Hawaii, and Oahu residents who rely on clean drinking water to turn on their taps.

The Navy and Hawaii Department of Health didn't immediately respond to messages requesting comment.

Henkin stated that even if Austin changed his mind and tried to keep the tanks open for a while, the military would now be subject to an "enforceable, unimpeachable and unchallengeable order" from the Department of Health.

The Hawaii Department of Health has given the order that the military must remove fuel from tanks within 30 days of it being safe. Henkin stated that the military must adhere to this deadline even though it has dropped the appeal.

With oversight from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state health department, the military is currently developing plans for safely removing the fuel. It is not clear how long this will take.

Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat hailing from Hawaii, stated in a statement, "paves the path for us to close down Red Hill this Year."

Schatz stated that the legal challenge made it difficult for the state and the Defense Department to cooperate. Schatz said that he worked hard to get the military to take this decision.

Late last year, petroleum leaked from Red Hill tanks into a Navy water well. This sickened 6,000 people who live in military housing. People complained of nausea, headaches, and other symptoms. While it was cleaning its water pipes, the military placed approximately 4,000 families in hotels over several months.

The tanks pose a risk to the water supply for Oahu's 400,000 inhabitants. Because they are 100 feet (30 m) above the aquifer which supplies the Honolulu Board of Water Supply and the Navy's water system, as well as the city's water utility,

The city utility suspended three of its wells while it tries to determine if petroleum will not migrate from the area through the aquifer by using the Navy's well.

Local leaders and the water utility are also concerned about another potential spillage that could cause water system poisoning.

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