The Environmental Protection Agency has teamed with the Hawaii Department of Health to host webinars focused on the health and environmental threat posed by spills at the U.S. Navy's Red Hill fuel storage facility near Honolulu.
The first event, to be conducted via Zoom on Jan. 12, will talk about the findings and recommendations of two health surveys conducted on residents last year and provide information on chemical releases from the facility since 2005.
Presenters include public health experts from the Centers for Disease Control's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
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Future episodes in the series have yet to be announced or scheduled.
In separate events in 2021, nearly 20,000 gallons of jet fuel spilled at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Facility, eventually leaking more than 3,300 gallons into the drinking water supply for Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
The leak forced thousands from their homes and tens of thousands to use bottled water for months. The Navy launched a massive cleanup effort, and health officials have declared the water as safe to drink, although military families on social media continue to post photos of cloudy water 14 months later.
Two subsequent Navy investigations determined that the events were the result of human error, an insufficient response to a spill in May 2021, as well as the November leak six months later, and chronic negligence by the operators at Red Hill.
More than 100 families sued the service for ongoing illnesses they say are related to the spills. Army Maj. Mandy Feindt, whose husband Patrick is party to the suit, and Katherine McClanahan, an Air Force Reserve wife who also is party to the suit, traveled to Washington, D.C., on Monday and Tuesday to press for a congressional hearing on the issue.
The two met with Hawaii's newest member of Congress, Democrat Rep. Jill Tokuda, along with Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Mich., who sits on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., who sponsored a bill last year requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs to study the health effects of jet fuel on military service members.
The legislation passed as part of the Sgt. First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics, or PACT, Act.
Under the law, the VA must provide Congress an interim report by Aug. 10 that includes a discussion of the various types of fuel used by the Defense Department, any immediate symptoms that may be related to exposure, and the measures the military services have undertaken to reduce exposure.
A follow-on report is due within five years.
Patrick Feindt was recently hospitalized for more than a week with neurological symptoms that included double vision, pain and slurred speech. McClanahan suffers dizziness and tremors.
"Our direct ask was a congressional hearing, and we listed out five reasons -- transparency, medical care, housing, retaliation and incentive pay -- hazard pay because our soldiers still have not been paid," Mandy Feindt said Wednesday during an interview with Military.com.
The Department of Defense announced last year that it would close Red Hill and transfer the 140 million gallons of fuel elsewhere. A joint task force is currently repairing the facility's pipes and safety system to defuel Red Hill by summer 2024.
In addition to the webinar Thursday, the EPA and the joint task force have planned a town hall meeting for residents and the public on Jan. 18.
Red Hill sits roughly 100 feet above an aquifer that serves as a primary source of drinking water for more than 400,000 residents of Honolulu. Local residents have long opposed its operations at Red Hill; a small group gathers every Wednesday afternoon at the entrance to the Pacific Fleet Headquarters to protest the fuel facility's existence.
-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Military.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.
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