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Community: CRI Meeting #5

Updated: Apr 9

[See the meeting video here]

February 15, 2024 - Red Hill Community Representation Initiative (CRI) Meeting #5

In the ongoing efforts to address environmental and health concerns associated with the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Hawaii, the Community Representation Initiative (CRI) has been at the forefront of dialogue, advocacy, and action. Two recent meetings, #4 held on January 18, 2024, and #5 on February 15, 2024, shed light on the complexities and efforts involved in dealing with the aftermath of fuel leaks and their impact on water safety and community trust.

Key Differences Between Meetings #4 and #5

The primary difference between the two meetings lies in their focus areas. Meeting #4 was largely internal, dealing with organizational structure, communication strategies, and setting expectations for future engagement, the Navy declined to participate in Meeting #4. In contrast, Meeting #5 delved into the technicalities and complexities of the Red Hill cleanup efforts, discussing specific remediation actions and the broader implications for community health and safety.

Meeting #5 Overview

The fifth meeting shifted its focus towards more substantive issues surrounding the cleanup and remediation efforts at Red Hill, revealing the ongoing challenges in ensuring water safety and quality. Highlights include:

  1. Water Safety and Quality Concerns: There is an ongoing effort to address water quality issues, including contaminants that may cause health problems such as rashes or upset stomachs. The discussion reflects concerns about how water is tested and the criteria used to declare it safe.

  2. Communication Challenges: The dialogue illustrates the difficulty in communicating water safety to the public, especially when there are unresolved questions about contaminants. There is a suggestion to avoid declaring water "safe" in absolute terms when uncertainties exist, proposing instead to communicate that water will not harm human health based on federal and state standards.

  3. Technical and Scientific Discussions: The conversation includes technical aspects of water quality monitoring, such as looking for biological or bacterial growth and considering the temperature of water heaters. There is also mention of adapting teams to not only sample water but also inspect premises for potential sources of contamination.

  4. Regulatory and Health Standards: The document touches on the use of federal and state standards to assess water safety, including discussions about specific parameters (like TPH - Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons) and the need for new terminology or approaches to better reflect health risks.

  5. Collaborative Efforts and Frustrations: The transcript shows a collaborative effort among various parties, including EPA representatives, to address water safety issues. However, there is also evident frustration over the pace of progress, communication methods, and changes in contact points or methods for addressing concerns.

  6. Future Actions and Commitments: There is a commitment to continue monitoring water quality, adjust standards or parameters as necessary, and strive to provide clean water to the community. The discussion also suggests producing accessible, non-technical explanations for the basis of safety numbers and health impact assessments.

  7. Current Defueling Efforts: The meeting detailed the Navy's progress in draining residual fuel from the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility. Approximately 57,000 gallons of fuel were reported to have been removed during this phase, focusing on eliminating fuel from areas above the aquifer and the surge lines near the underground pump house. This phase was reported to be completed ahead of schedule, without any incidents or issues.

  8. Transition to Navy Closure Task Force: The defueling process is part of the broader closure plan for the Red Hill facility. The transition to the Navy Closure Task Force signifies the next steps in the cleanup process. This task force is responsible for continuing the work initiated by the Joint Task Force Red Hill, including removing sludge from the tanks and addressing fuel trapped in various components of the system as they progress through pipeline demolition. The same contractor and crew that supported the defueling process will be utilized for this next phase, ensuring continuity in expertise and experience.

  9. Timeline and Future Actions: The cleanup effort involves cleaning the tanks two at a time, with each tank expected to take many months to clean. There is potential to increase the number of tanks being cleaned simultaneously, depending on efficiency gains and learning throughout the process. This detailed approach indicates a significant commitment to thoroughly addressing the contamination issue, although the complete timeline extends over many months, reflecting the complexity and scale of the cleanup operation.

Navy and EPA Participation

There was a notable discussion regarding the participation of the Navy and EPA, or the perceived lack thereof, which significantly impacted the Community Representation Initiative's (CRI) ability to fully understand and engage with the issues at hand. Key points from this discussion include:

  1. Expectation of Updates: The CRI expected updates on the premise plumbing for houses still experiencing jet fuel in tap water, along with an update on a remediation plan and the transition from gravity defueling to more complex cleanup and closure steps. Unfortunately, these updates were not provided as expected, undermining the value of having the CRI without Navy input or understanding.

  2. EPA's Reluctance to Meet Without the Navy: The EPA expressed a disinclination to meet with the CRI unless the Navy was also present. This stance led to a situation where neither the Navy nor the EPA joined the CRI meeting, leaving significant questions unanswered and contributing to a sense of frustration among CRI members.

  3. Private Meetings vs. Public Engagement: There was a discussion about the value and appropriateness of engaging in private meetings with federal signatories versus the importance of public meetings for transparency and community trust. The consensus among CRI members was a preference for public meetings to ensure a transparent process, reflecting a lack of trust in private discussions without broader community involvement.

  4. Missed Opportunities for Engagement: The absence of the Navy and EPA from the meeting was seen as a missed opportunity, especially in light of specific visits to the area by EPA representatives. This situation was particularly disheartening for the CRI and community members who hoped for direct engagement and answers to pressing questions.

Water Filtration

  1. Installation of Water Filters: The Navy has begun installing water filters in homes as a measure to ensure water safety and address community concerns about water contamination. This action is part of a broader effort to mitigate the impact of the fuel leaks and ensure that the water being consumed by the residents is safe.

  2. Effectiveness and Maintenance of Filters: There was a concern raised about the effectiveness of these filters and their maintenance. The community members were interested in understanding how these filters work, their efficacy in removing contaminants, and the frequency with which they need to be replaced or maintained to ensure ongoing water safety.

  3. Communication and Education: The need for clear communication and education about the water filters was emphasized. It was mentioned that the community needs comprehensive information on how to maintain the filters, recognize when replacements are needed, and understand the overall impact of using these filters on their water quality.

  4. Long-Term Solutions: While the installation of water filters was acknowledged as a positive step, there was a discussion on the need for long-term solutions to the water contamination issues. The filters are seen as a temporary measure, and there is a call for systemic remedies to ensure the enduring safety of the water supply.

Action Steps

Based on the discussions and outcomes of these meetings, several action steps have been outlined to address the ongoing challenges:

  1. Enhanced Communication: Develop clear, accessible channels for communicating with the public about water safety, remediation efforts, and progress updates.

  2. Community Engagement: Continue to engage with the community through regular meetings, updates, and forums to ensure their concerns are heard and addressed.

  3. Collaboration with Authorities: Strengthen collaboration with the Navy, EPA, and other stakeholders to ensure coordinated efforts in the cleanup and remediation process.

  4. Transparency and Accountability: Push for greater transparency from the Navy and EPA regarding the cleanup process, including detailed updates on remediation strategies and safety assessments.

  5. CRI Calendar: The initiative aims to schedule meetings every third Thursday of the month, subject to adjustments as necessary to accommodate schedules. This plan is designed to ensure regular, structured engagement and progress on addressing the issues related to the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility. The year-long calendar is accessible on the CRI website, providing a tentative schedule for stakeholders and the community to plan their participation and engagement in the initiative's activities and discussions.

To see more information about upcoming meetings and all meeting videos and minutes please visit the Red Hill Community Representation Initiative (CRI) website here.



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