The Pentagon says it could take between 30 days to four months to empty Hawaii’s Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, according to the latest version of the defueling plan.
The Department said it is continually reevaluating the timeline for the defueling, with the current thinking projecting about 120 days to remove all the fuel from Red Hill. The DoD could begin defueling pipelines as early as this month and remove all the fuel by the end of July 2024, according to the public plan.
“Additional analysis of the factors and conditions of the current plan has allowed DOD to reduce the timeline for the safe and expeditious defueling of the ~104 million gallons of fuel to 120-calendar days,” reads the plan. “DoD will continue this analysis and will continue to conduct market research in efforts to reduce the defueling timeline as much as possible, consistent with safe defueling.”
However, with additional tankers and an increased flow rate, the DoD could reduce the defueling time to 30 days, according to the update. As a result, the Navy would have to restrict fueling operations at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
The new supplement to the DOD’s defueling plan was released in conjunction with a visit last week from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to Hawaii. Austin toured Red Hill and met with Rear Adm. John Wade, the newly appointed commander of Joint Task Force – Red Hill.
Speaking with reporters on Monday, Wade didn’t detail how the DoD would proceed with the defueling.
“All I can tell you is that I’m absolutely committed to safely defuel as quickly as possible within the right safety parameters,” Wade said. “And again, there’s regulatory requirements here for the Department of Health, and also for the EPA. And I’ve spoken to that leadership personally, I’m committed to work with them, so that we can get after this important task.”
The DoD is currently following a plan with a July 2024 projected end date but that could change, Wade said.
“As long as the fuel is, you know, in those tanks, there is an imminent threat to the health and to our community, and also to the environment.” Wade said. “But that’s why the task force was created, and why I’m here and my team is working hard already to take this mission on, which, you know, is so incredibly important.”
The DoD is working to defuel as quickly as possible, Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said during a Tuesday press conference.
“And certainly, they’re going to work it again as fast as they can, but just as importantly, as safely as they can, given the environmental and community impacts,” Ryder said.