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Defueling Information Sharing Forum (DISF) Meeting Notes Tuesday, December 5, 2023

23-001 | Dec. 12, 2023

Defueling Information Sharing Forum (DISF) Meeting Notes Tuesday, December 5, 2023

The meeting agenda consisted of the following:  

  • Welcome & Introductions
  • Opening Comments 
  • Defueling Update
  • JTF-RH 
    • IMS; Gravity Defueling Update; Residual Fuel & Sludge Analysis 
  • CNRH/NCTF-RH Update
    • Mission; Stand-up; Approach
  • NAVFAC Update
    • Long-Term Monitoring; Action Schedule
  • Answer Last Meeting's Due Outs 
  • Open Discussion & Dialogue
  • Summarize Key Take-Aways / New Due Outs
  • Next Meeting Date & Time, Location
  • Closing Remarks

Key areas of discussion consisted of the following: 

  • Welcome: BG Okamura welcomed and thanked DISF members for their continued support. He also expressed sincere gratitude for their feedback and the time that they have dedicated to supporting the Defueling Information Sharing Forum. BG Okamura highlighted the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of OHA as a new DISF Member while also recognizing OHA’s communications representative attending this DISF meeting on behalf of OHA leadership. Next, he introduced RDML Marc Williams, the Deputy Commander of Navy Closure Task Force – Red Hill (NCTF-RH), and Ms. Meagan Ostrem, the Strategic Outreach Advisor for NCTF-RH. He then turned the floor over to the Commander of JTF-RH, VADM Wade.

Opening Comments and JTF-RH Defueling Update: VADM Wade thanked the DISF members for their attendance. At the time of the DISF meeting, the JTF was over a month into the gravity defueling process (over 103 million gallons safely removed from the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility (RHBFSF)). VADM Wade then highlighted that from a safety perspective, he has been pleased with efforts to date – no injuries; no spills or fires; and no incidents that affected the health of the team, community, or that impacted the environment. He continued by saying that in the month of nearly continuous operations, the JTF experienced only two minor incidents – both small leaks from valves (roughly 3 gallons total) that were immediately identified, corrected through coordination with the EPA and DOH (who were on scene during the incidents), and resulted in no release to the environment. VADM Wade also noted that actions to address small leaks like these were not unexpected, especially in a facility of the size of Red Hill and the volume of fuel being moved. He concluded by saying that the JTF has been open and transparent with the media, community, and in engagements about these incidents. He then reiterated that the JTF is absolutely committed to the safe defueling of Red Hill and will immediately report to the public if there is an incident that has the potential to endanger our personnel, the community, or the environment.

VADM Wade next discussed the timeline for the remainder of gravity defueling operations. The JTF defueled tank mains to the 10 ft. level, and then identified an opportunity to defuel tank mains further to the 7 ft. level, removing an additional 1 million gallons from the RHBFSF. The defueling of the additional 1 million gallons reduced the time required for the current evolution of flowable tank bottoms (FTBs). Originally, removal of the FTBs was scheduled for defueling through December 15, but now the JTF estimates that it will be complete by December 8. 

Although briefed previously, VADM Wade again described what fuel product will remain in the facility following gravity defueling -- approximately 64K gallons of residual fuel (the fuel that cannot be drained via gravity), as well as approximately 28K gallons of sludge (semi-solid, semi-liquid sediment at the bottom of the storage tanks). During the presentation, he used updated slides based on feedback from DISF members to help the community more clearly understand given the complexity.

He discussed the engineering analysis that showed that ~60K gallons of the ~64K gallons of residual fuel can safely be removed without disabling the pipelines in approximately two months. The fuel can be removed by opening low point drains and letting fuel drain out to be collected, similar to the draining of oil out of a car engine when changing oil, or by opening vents located at the top of the pipelines to drop in small hoses to slowly pump out the fuel and be collected. The remaining ~4K gallons, however, can only be accessed by physically altering the pipelines, meaning the pipeline would have to be cut into or valves physically removed to gain access to the pockets of fuel. VADM Wade stressed that will be a much lengthier process, given the steps required to safely remove this fuel and sludge, then clean the tanks and remove the pipelines from the facility.

VADM Wade emphasized the Department of Defense will continue defueling Red Hill, as mandated in the Hawaii Emergency Order and the 2023 Consent Order. He then reminded DISF members that in Defueling Supplement #3 (released November 14, 2023) the Secretary of Defense has directed that JTF-RH remove the majority of the residual fuel (~60K gallons), and that NCTF-RH will remove any remaining residual fuel (~4K gallons) and sludge (~28K gallons).

VADM Wade then discussed what is to come over the next several months. He noted that Unpacking of the pipelines is now projected to be complete by December 19, 2023. JTF-RH will then shift focus to set conditions for the safe removal of the majority of the residual fuel (~60K gallons) commencing mid-January and ending by the end of March, pending regulatory approval. Meanwhile, JTF-RH will continue close coordination with NCTF-RH and prepare for the formal turnover and transition during this same window (January – March).  

VADM Wade then went into detail about the turnover and transition with NCTF-RH. He noted it will be a deliberate and methodical process, so that NCTF-RH can learn JTF-RH’s processes and procedures for safety, security, and community engagement. This turnover will continue until the end of March, at which point the ~60K gallons of residual fuel will have been removed, and NCTF-RH will be ready to assume full responsibility for Red Hill. This responsibility includes the centralized control of all activities at the facility, including the completion of remaining residual fuel removal, sludge removal, cleaning of the tanks, pipeline removal, other non-fuel hazardous material removal, facility preventative and corrective maintenance, as well as long-term environmental remediation and aquifer restoration. 

VADM Wade concluded his remarks by acknowledging there is concern from some in the community about the amount of residual fuel (~4K gallons) and sludge (~28K gallons) remaining in the facility when JTF-RH disestablishes in March. He again emphasized that the Department of Defense is absolutely committed to removing every drop of fuel out of Red Hill as safely and expeditiously as possible. To this end, the Navy will have the dedicated NCTFRH, with a single commander in charge, who will be responsible and accountable for the mission. Further, all risk management processes and procedures JTF-RH has established will remain in place. Additionally, 15-20 senior members of JTF-RH will move over and serve on the NCTF to bring their institutional knowledge, which will further reduce risk. 

A DISF member asked if NCTF-RH would have any joint personnel (i.e. Army or Air Force) or if the team would be comprised completely of Navy Region Hawaii (CNRH) personnel. Both VADM Wade and RADM Barnett explained that NCTF-RH would be comprised of Navy personnel only, as the mission will solely be a Navy mission once JTF-RH disestablishes. VADM Wade then highlighted that RADM Barnett will be the only member of NCTF-RH that will be part of both CNRH and NCTF-RH. All other NCTF-RH personnel will be singularly focused on the Red Hill closure mission, and assigned to NCTF-RH, not CNRH. 

A DISF member noted that robust joint communications from both JTF-RH and NCTF-RH will be critical to help the community understand the transition in the coming months. Both VADM Wade and RADM Barnett concurred and noted that both teams are already working this outreach plan. They noted that NCTF-RH will utilize a mobile app, as JTF-RH is doing, and highlighted that a combined Open House is being planned for early February, to engage with the public and answer their questions on the transition. BG Okamura and his NCTF-RH counterpart (Ms. Meagan Ostrem) committed to provide a short presentation on the Transition Outreach Plan at the next DISF meeting.

NCTF-RH updates on Closure and Environmental Remediation / Clean Water: Because defueling sets the conditions for closure, RADM Barnett (Commander, NCTF-RH) and CAPT Sullivan (Commander, NAVFAC Hawaii and supporting to NCTF-RH) provided comprehensive updates on closure and environmental remediation / clean water. DISF members were appreciative of the update. They noted the importance of these topics to the community and urged them to provide regular updates to the public moving forward. Many also noted how complex these subjects are and suggested NCTF-RH focus efforts in the coming weeks to simplify the communication w/ the public so they can better understand what is being done to close the facility and remediate the soil and aquifer.   

DISF Next Steps after JTF-RH disestablishment: As part of the purposeful transition between JTF-RH and NCTF-RH and knowing how valuable the DISF was for JTF-RH over the last year, VADM Wade and RADM Barnett stated their intent to present a proposal at the next meeting asking the members to maintain the forum and support NCTF-RH for their mission.  

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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