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Joint Task Force-Red Hill Hosts Fourth Defueling Information Sharing Forum

23-001 | May 26, 2023

HONOLULU – Joint Task Force - Red Hill (JTF-Red Hill) coordinated the fourth meeting of the Defueling Information Sharing Forum (DISF) at the Hawaii State Capitol in Honolulu, May 17.

The meeting agenda consisted of the following:

• Opening Remarks / Introduction of New Members

• Incremental Evolution of DISF

• AFFF Investigation Release Feedback

• Defueling Supplement #2

• Repairs Update

• Safety Measures

• National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

• Review Last Meetings Due-outs

Key areas of discussion consisted of the following:

Opening Remarks / Introduction of New Members: BG Okamura welcomed and thanked DISF members for their continued support. He also expressed sincere gratitude for their feedback which has helped JTF-RH better understand community concerns, and in turn, more effectively communicate with the public as we press forward with preparations to commence gravity draining of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility (RHBFSF) in mid-Oct. Further, Rep. Mark Hashem (House District 19; Chair of the House Committee on Corrections, Military, and Veterans; member of House Committee on Water and Land; and, serves on the House Special Committee on Red Hill) was formally introduced as a new member. And lastly, DISF members unanimously agreed to add Rep. Nicole Lowen to the DISF (House District 7; Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection; and, Co-Chair of the House Special Committee on Red Hill).

Incremental Evolution of DISF: BG Okamura, MajGen Hashimoto and then VADM Wade highlighted we would incrementally open the aperture of future meetings given robust and logical DISF member feedback. Future agenda items and discussions will include the connection and harmony between the forthcoming gravity draining of RHBFSF and the current, complimentary actions being taken to protect the aquifer, as well as the simultaneous setting of conditions for the eventual transition to closure. Focusing on these “overlaps” is important to ensure longer term continuity and to help identify issues or blind spots across these interrelated actions. To support this, Navy Region Hawaii (NRH) and Navy Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) representatives will attend future meetings.

VADM Wade emphasized that while long term environmental remediation and providing for the health of the community and our families are vitally important, these efforts are not linked directly to Defueling, and thus, would not be specifically addressed in our DISF meetings. He reinforced, however, that if any member becomes aware of an issue or concern related to these efforts to please let BG Okamura know separately. He in turn would personally ensure the leaders of the responsible organizations are made aware and would help in any way to resolve.

AFFF Investigation Release Feedback: VADM Wade provided a detailed summary of the AFFF investigation and his endorsement. He specifically addressed the two issues that generated the most concern from the majority of DISF members and community the last six months – the length of time it took to complete (ensure thorough and accurate), and why the video footage was not released to the public earlier (initially evidence, then decision made to hold until investigation was completed to provide the holistic picture). While all the DISF members were appreciative of the transparency associated with the release, some again expressed their and the community’s frustration that there was yet another preventable mishap at the facility following the ’21 spills and subsequent water crisis. VADM Wade fully acknowledged and agreed with their concerns, and then highlighted the added controls implemented to reduce risk of future mishaps at RHBFSF.

One DISF member expressed appreciation for the risk reduction measures put in place by JTF-RH, but then asked if they would continue once the JTF was disestablished and the Navy continued with the closure of RHBFSF. VADM Wade assured the group that there will be a meticulous and disciplined approach to transition planning and associated mission analysis. He noted all JTF-RH processes and procedures that have been established would be fully evaluated for continuation, and that those specifically implemented to enhance safety and security or to rebuild trust with the community and elected officials (i.e. JTF-RH community and media outreach) would absolutely be fully considered to ensure continuity of mission and that we don’t inadvertently create any gaps or seams. VADM Wade then informed the members that that the Department of Defense (DOD) has established a Red Hill Senior Steering Group (RH SSG) to serve as an umbrella governance structure to not only keep the Secretary of Defense informed of all issues and progress related to the Red Hill problem set (defueling, closure, environmental remediation and medical), but to also review and approve the transition process. MajGen Hashimoto highlighted that although Commander, US Indo-Pacific Command (ADM Aquilino), VADM Wade, along with senior leaders from the Department of the Navy (DON) and Defense Health Agency aren’t members of the RH SSG, they do provide input which will be taken into account when decisions are made. VADM Wade concluded the conversation by saying he is committed to being transparent with the DISF, elected officials and the community during the transition planning process, and then emphasized why from his perspective the incremental evolution of the DISF will be beneficial. The member concurred and appreciated the response.

Defueling Supplement #2: VADM Wade and BG Link provided an overview of the recently released Defueling Supplement #2. The early start (mid-Oct ’23) was viewed very favorably by all members. BG Link discussed the conditions that will be necessary to start, then reviewed where we are on the Integrated Master Schedule. She concluded with an overview of the running risk assessment and gate review process that we have implemented to measure our performance to plan.

Several members were keenly interested in understanding why there is a probability that between 100K and 400K gallons of fuel will remain in RHBFSF at the conclusion of this stage of defueling. BG Link answered that all fuel can’t be removed via gravity draining because it will pool in low point drains, bends, traverse piping, sags within the pipes, etc. She then walked the members through one of several JTF-RH’s discovery of fuel pockets while conducting repairs (approx. 13K gal of fuel dammed behind a valve in the lower access tunnel). In doing so, she discussed the detailed analysis, planning, regulatory approvals, training, rehearsals, environmental preparations (lead abatement, asbestos removal), containment and other risk mitigations put in place, response preparations and the ultimate care and caution that went into its removal so that repairs in that area could continue. DISF members were very appreciative of this information. Although helpful, several members voiced concern that what was briefed is a tremendously complicated subject that won’t easily be explained to the public. One of the DISF members then strongly recommended it would be extremely helpful for JTF-RH to put together a short and simple video to aid in this explanation. VADM Wade expressed his gratitude for the suggestion and committed to create a video in time for the Defueling Open House (23-24 May) and to also post on the JTF-RH website. This video can be found by clicking on the following link:

One of the DISF members asked if the 100 – 400k gallons fuel would be removed by Jan ’24. VADM Wade said, “unfortunately, no.” He added that DOD is fully committed to removing every drop of fuel, but the process to do so will likely take time. How long is not yet known, but a comprehensive survey of RHBFSF is in progress that will help us determine this answer. He further stated that the Secretary of Defense’s guidance for the safe and expeditious defueling of Red Hill will not change once gravity draining is complete, and as such, DOD will provide DOH and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with additional supplements as needed to comprehensively address all the actions that will be necessary for this. Another member asked if JTF-RH would be responsible for removing all of the fuel. VADM Wade stated that the decision for this will be made by the Secretary of Defense through the RH SSG governance process. He also highlighted that he is absolutely committed to ensure the transition planning is worked comprehensively through a “team of teams” approach with all the applicable DON commands. And lastly, he again committed to being transparent with the DISF, elected officials and the community during this process. The DISF member noted that how important the transparency, and especially the community outreach, will be. VADM Wade emphatically concurred.

Repairs Update: BG Link provided a quick update on repairs (220 of 253), 3rd Party Quality Validation (120 of 253) and Department of Health (DOH) conditional approval (56 of 253). Latest Dashboard can be found by clicking on the following link:

*** NOTE: This information was as of 15 May and prior to release of Defueling Supplement #2 (16 May).

Safety Measures: VADM Wade and BG Link briefed members on the robust safety measures in-place at RHBFSF. They specifically discussed current fire prevention measures implemented in coordination with NRH, NAVFAC and Federal Fire Department (FedFire). They also discussed the proposed fire protection plan for gravity defueling (a viable alternative to AFFF at the underground storage tanks) which has been submitted to DOH and the EPA for review and approval. In doing so, they highlighted that this proposed plan balances fire suppression, personal safety, and environmental concerns. VADM Wade concluded by stating that should DOH or EPA determine that the risks are too high and AFFF use is necessary, then JTF-RH will ensure all aspects of the system are thoroughly inspected and tested to confirm it performs properly and as intended, and will be transparent throughout the process.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): VADM Wade introduced the JTF-RH Environmental Law Attorney (CAPT Kerry Abramson) who provided an in-depth and exhaustive description of NEPA, the Environmental Assessment (EA) process, and the different actions being considered for defueling. Multiple follow up questions were asked to gain an understanding of the EA process and if the process could affect the current mid-Oct defueling start. CAPT Abramson answered all of the questions providing fidelity on the process, the potential environmental impacts from the gravity defueling actions, the timeline for the process (should be completed by 31 Aug) and how the process addresses bio-security concerns.

Defueling Open House: VADM Wade highlighted the upcoming Defueling Open House, the information that JTF-RH will provide, methods that JTF-RH is using to message the event, and kindly requested that DISF members to please share this information with their constituents, communities, networks and peers.

Review Last Meetings Due-outs: VADM Wade, BG Okamura, and BG Link highlighted and addressed the due outs from the last DISF Meeting.

This is the record of the DISF meeting. These statements are the result of many perspectives and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Defense.

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