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Cassatt currently only has a volunteer fire station, but that could soon change.CASSATT, S.C. — Residents in Cassatt might feel safer in the next year, as the county is works to take its volunteer fire station into a full-time 24-hour station."Years back, the county realized the need for a new station in Cassatt," said Kershaw County Fire Service Chief Will Glover.The current volunteer station is located on Red Hill Church Road, but t...
Cassatt currently only has a volunteer fire station, but that could soon change.
CASSATT, S.C. — Residents in Cassatt might feel safer in the next year, as the county is works to take its volunteer fire station into a full-time 24-hour station.
"Years back, the county realized the need for a new station in Cassatt," said Kershaw County Fire Service Chief Will Glover.
The current volunteer station is located on Red Hill Church Road, but there will soon be a new station on Highway One, right beside the Dollar General in Cassatt.
"The current station in Cassatt wasn't able to hold those 24-hour positions, so they started the process of trying to build a new station in Cassatt," Glover said. "We had to find land, of course, to start with, and once they acquired the land, we started the design phase of what we wanted it to look like. The living quarters, it has to be a little different than some of the stations we have now because people will be in it for 24 hours."
The Cassatt site averages around 150 calls a year, but those working there also respond to calls outside the district, making it a site that needs to be staffed at all hours.
"When the plan was done or study was done, they looked at a heat map where calls were and based off that heat map, this was one of the locations we needed 24-hour staff at," Glover said.
"So, responding to emergencies, the guys volunteer to do that. A 24/7 operation, all that will do is actually enhance the response time, for some of our older folks that stay here in Cassatt, so I think it's a good thing," said resident Christopher Hunter II.
Glover said they hope to have all bids in for the Request For Proposal by the end of October, and if they find a builder who has a price they can work with, construction will begin and would take around a year.
It was November 2021, a week after an estimated 20,000 gallons of fuel spewed from a Red Hill facility pipeline, and families had started to report a fuel smell in their drinking water.Navy officials were putting two and two together, Leonard Joseph Nehl II, a supervisor in the Navy drinking water system, said in a recent deposition.When officials gathered in Navy Capt. Gordie Meyer’s office on Nov. 28, Nehl said he could smell fuel coming from Meyer’s bathroom sink.“We need to let the people know,&rdqu...
It was November 2021, a week after an estimated 20,000 gallons of fuel spewed from a Red Hill facility pipeline, and families had started to report a fuel smell in their drinking water.
Navy officials were putting two and two together, Leonard Joseph Nehl II, a supervisor in the Navy drinking water system, said in a recent deposition.
When officials gathered in Navy Capt. Gordie Meyer’s office on Nov. 28, Nehl said he could smell fuel coming from Meyer’s bathroom sink.
“We need to let the people know,” Nehl recalled Meyer saying.
But they didn’t. Instead, the Navy put out a press release after 9:30 p.m. that night saying there was “no immediate indication that the water is not safe.” The Hawaii Department of Health wouldn’t issue an advisory until the following evening telling residents not to use the water if it has an odor.
It wasn’t until Dec. 2 that the Navy confirmed with test results that the water contained fuel. By then, thousands of Pearl Harbor area residents had already drunk it, bathed their children in it and washed their dishes and laundry with it. Thousands of people have reported health problems, and some are still struggling with those impacts today.
Nehl was among the first Navy officials to be interviewed under oath about Red Hill as part of a mass tort lawsuit against the Navy, blaming it for its negligence in causing and responding to the drinking water debacle. His deposition and other documents, filed as exhibits to a motion in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, underscore the Navy’s failure to warn Pearl Harbor area residents about the threat to their drinking water.
Even after thousands of gallons of fuel leaked near the well over the course of 34 hours on Nov. 20 and Nov. 21, 2021, and even after complaints started rolling in, the Navy didn’t confirm a problem until it had received test results back from a lab on the mainland.
“This is a case about a government that poisoned its people,” the plaintiffs’ attorney Kristina Baehr said in a statement.
“On Nov 28, 2021, officers smelled fuel in the water and agreed that people must be warned not to use it. But that message hit the Navy spin machine. Instead, the Navy assured people that the water was safe to drink. They let days pass and thousands go to the emergency room before they acknowledged the enormous blast that contaminated the water.”
In a statement Tuesday, Navy Region Hawaii spokesman Mike Andrews said the Navy immediately began investigating concerns about the water when complaints came in on Nov. 28 and shut down the well that same day. Officials shipped samples to an off-island lab because the state has no lab sensitive enough for the job.
“The Navy notified the public of the presence of fuel in Red Hill Shaft on December 2, when notification was received from the laboratory and a visible sheen was discovered in a sample from the Red Shaft,” Andrews said.
In federal court, the federal government has agreed it was negligent and caused injury, but proceedings are ongoing to determine the scope of the harm and monetary damages.
The documents filed on Tuesday were attached as exhibits to a motion aimed at deposing Adm. Samuel Paparo, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The plaintiffs’ effort to get the four-star admiral under oath is getting pushback from the Navy because he is such a “high-ranking official,” federal government attorneys wrote in a motion to the court.
“There is no reason under law or logic to prevent Plaintiffs from finding out the essential factsthat only Admiral Paparo knows,” the motion states.
Meanwhile, the Joint Task Force – Red Hill is working to safely remove fuel from the World War II-era storage facility facility. Over 100 million gallons of fuel remain perched above Oahu’s primary drinking water aquifer. The task force hopes to have more than 99% of the fuel removed by January. The plan to remove the remainder, an estimated 400,000, is unclear.
In another deposition, Flynn Garcia, who works in the Navy drinking water system, answered questions under oath about responding to the Nov. 20 fuel spill. Although initial reports stated the leak may have been only water, or a water and fuel mixture, Garcia said it was immediately evident that the leak was fuel.
“How did I know? Well, the fumes were burning my eyes,” he said, according to the transcript.
On Nov. 28, Garcia visited a nearby neighborhood to check the water coming out of a fire hydrant.
“You smelled fuel in the water, didn’t you?” attorney Jim Baehr asked.
“Yeah,” Garcia responded.
“Would you warn your family or other friends that you knew on the water line if — if they were drinking that water?” Jim Baehr asked later in the deposition.
“Yes,” Garcia said.
“And why would you warn them?” the attorney asked.
“For their health,” Garcia responded.
Some of the documents filed in court on Tuesday are memos completed as part of the military’s own Red Hill spill investigation. One summarized an interview with Meyer. He was the commander of Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command, which was in charge of facility maintenance at Red Hill.
Meyer, too, immediately recognized the leaked material as fuel on Nov. 20, according to the summary.
“Shortly after arriving CAPT Meyer stuck his finger in the liquid and you could tell there was fuel there,” the summary states. “CAPT Meyer’s concern was how to handle the release, how to isolate the fuel coming out, and making sure it could be contained and pumped out so it does not end up somewhere it should not be.”
Following the leak, officials discussed what could be done to monitor impacts to the environment, Meyer told investigators, but that conversation was limited.
“There was no discussion about a decision to shut off the well,” the summary states.
In fact, in the immediate aftermath of complaints about the water, Navy Capt. Albert “Bert” Hornyak “drank a whole glass” taken straight from the Red Hill well on Nov. 28, according to Nehl’s deposition.
“And he says, ‘I’m sorry. I don’t taste it, nothing. I don’t smell nothing. I’m sorry,’” Nehl recalled.
The well was ultimately shut off that same day, according to the Navy.
Rear Adm. Tim Kott, then commander of Navy Region Hawaii, told Paparo in an email the following morning that the Navy had no evidence of a problem. He told Paparo the well had been shuttered out of “an abundance of caution.”
“We have investigated, and do not currently have any indications of chemicals or fuel in the drinking water,” he wrote in the email, which was submitted to the court as an exhibit. “Engineers visited a number of those homes, and did not find a noticeable odor to the water.”
The November 2021 leak was caused in part by an earlier leak in May 2021 to which the Navy and its contractors failed to respond properly, according to the U.S. Pacific Fleet investigations into the disaster.
In May 2021, some 20,000 gallons of fuel spilled from a Red Hill tank. Officials cleaned up some of it, and accounted for some leaking into the environment, but they didn’t know where most of the fuel went.
Later, they would find out it had been captured by a retention pipeline designed to collect used water and firefighting foam in the event of a fire. The system was designed to pump that material to an aboveground tank, but after the May event, it failed to take the fuel all the way to its destination. Instead, it sat in a PVC pipe for months until someone hit it with a cart on Nov. 20, 2021.
That’s when it came spewing out into a Red Hill tunnel and gushed unstoppably for more than a day.
John Floyd, the civilian deputy director of fuel and facility management, had apparently been wondering about the missing fuel, according to a summary of Kott’s interview with military investigators.
“Mr. John Floyd made a statement during the visit along the lines of ‘that must have been where the 20k gallons went,'” the summary states, referring to a Nov. 21 conversation.
Kott told Paparo what he heard, according to the summary. Paparo then contacted the chief of naval operations by email, a copy of which was included in Tuesday’s court exhibits.
“I learned today (and only today) that more fuel was potentially missing from tank inventories following the 6 May event, believed to have been distributed to portions of the piping system,” he wrote.
“This is different than the 1,618 gallons of fuel reported as spilled (of which 1,580 gallons were recovered) and may be the source of the fuel in the fire suppression line. The ultimate disposition of that missing inventory is speculation at this point. I cannot rule out more leakage to the environment than the original 38 gallons reported,” he added.
The company awarded a half-million-dollar, no-bid “public outreach” contract to solicit ideas from the community about possible alternative uses of the Navy’s Red Hill facility once it’s closed for fueling operations is being tight-lipped about how it plans to conduct community outreach.The Navy announced Jan. 31 that it had awarded a contract to Nakupuna Cos. and that the company and its team of subconsultants would “solicit and consider all ideas received from the community with an emphasis on citizens ...
The company awarded a half-million-dollar, no-bid “public outreach” contract to solicit ideas from the community about possible alternative uses of the Navy’s Red Hill facility once it’s closed for fueling operations is being tight-lipped about how it plans to conduct community outreach.
The Navy announced Jan. 31 that it had awarded a contract to Nakupuna Cos. and that the company and its team of subconsultants would “solicit and consider all ideas received from the community with an emphasis on citizens of Oahu.”
Since then Nakupuna has declined to name its subconsultants or the team members who will be working on public outreach. The company declined interview requests and wouldn’t answer written questions about how it plans to gather the ideas, whether it will host community meetings and when it plans to submit its work to the Navy.
The company told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that if it has questions about the contract, it could submit a formal records request under the Freedom of Information Act.
“We do not plan to sit for any interviews regarding the project,” said Andy Minor, a spokesperson for Nakupuna Cos., by email. “After coordinating with the Navy, we ask that any further details regarding the contract be requested using the FOIA process.”
Minor referred additional questions to Navy Region Hawaii’s public affairs office.
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The Navy also declined to say who the subcontractors are and said that it is allowed to withhold this information based on a FOIA exemption that allows the government to withhold commercial information.
The Navy declined to answer specific questions about the contract terms, such as any deliverables, how the cost of the contract was determined to be $530,168.08 and whether there is a deadline for Nakupuna to complete its work.
The Navy said that after Nakupuna collects community ideas, the Navy will meet with the Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Health, the facility’s regulators, to select the public’s top five ideas. The Navy said those ideas will then be evaluated for feasibility, considering the environment, engineering, maintenance, safety, cost and benefits — work that the Navy says is not included in the Nakupuna contract.
The top five ideas are expected to be identified later this year, in accordance with a “draft schedule,” said the Navy, which declined to provide a copy of that schedule, saying it’s being revised.
The Navy said more information about when and how the community can provide feedback and input will be available in the coming weeks. Nakupuna Cos. provided a link to a website for people to sign up to be notified when the project is ready for their input.
The company, in a statement, said that it was “pleased to be playing a role in generating community-based discussions” and that it will act as “information facilitators.”
“Our team’s experience with community relations will ensure we reach a broad audience, and we look forward to working with our fellow citizens to ensure their ideas are heard,” according to the statement.
The Star-Advertiser earlier this month submitted a FOIA request for a copy of the contract and any deliverables outlined by the Navy for fulfilling the terms of the contract. But the Department of Defense, which has a backlog of records requests, is notoriously slow in responding.
When the Navy announced in November that it would explore ways to repurpose the World War II era-facility once it finishes permanently defueling the tanks, it was quickly criticized by groups including the Honolulu Board of Water Supply and Hawaii Sierra Club. They’ve questioned whether the aging tanks and pipelines can realistically and safely be reused for another purpose, even filling them with an emergency supply of drinking water.
Hawaii Sierra Club Director Wayne Tanaka said the lack of transparency about the contract only fuels concerns.
“It just doesn’t make sense to solicit ideas without knowing whether any use would be safe,” he said. “The fact that they also haven’t evaluated clearly what this should actually cost taxpayers by avoiding procurement and competitive bidding further emphasizes the nonsensicalness of this approach.”
Tanaka said greater transparency about the contract could help assure the public that the results reflect a “good-faith survey of public sentiment.”
Department of Defense contracts generally need to be awarded through a competitive bidding process, but there are exceptions. Nakupuna Cos. was able to obtain the sole-source contract because it’s a so-called 8(a) firm. The Small Businesses Administration’s 8(a) program was designed to encourage the government to award contracts to small, disadvantaged businesses, including those owned by Native Hawaiians.
Nakupuna’s website says its “family of companies” specializes in management consulting, IT, facilities and infrastructure, logistics and environmental services. The company has offices in Honolulu and Washington, D.C., as well as Colorado, Virginia, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.
Nakupuna’s subsidiaries have received at least $8.84 million in military contracts since 2020, according to information from the Hawaii Defense Economy project.
A Navy spokesperson said Friday that the Navy uses the 8(a) program “for situations such as social economic goals and schedule timing.”
The Pentagon announced in 2022 that it would permanently shut down Red Hill after a fuel leak from the facility in November 2021 contaminated its nearby Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam drinking water system and sickened military families. The Navy and its contractors are working on $75 million in repairs and upgrades to Red Hill’s infrastructure just so they can safely drain the approximately 104 million gallons of fuel from the underground tanks that has now been sitting there for more than a year.
The Department of Defense has been working on closure plans, and it came as a surprise to many when top officials announced in November that they would try to find another use for Red Hill. Meredith Berger, assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and environment, told reporters that reuse “is an option we want to make sure we preserve.”
DOH, at the time, said it was not clear whether Hawaii administrative rules allow for a reuse option when underground fuel tanks are permanently shut down.
“It is not something that has ever been proposed before, and it is really the Navy’s burden to say what that beneficial reuse could and would be,” a DOH spokesperson told the Star-Advertiser following the DOD’s announcement. “And then we would have to reevaluate it from there.”
But both the Navy and Nakupuna told the Star- Advertiser this month that the idea actually originated from DOH. Nakupuna said the DOH was requiring the Navy to explore potential alternative uses for Red Hill.
The Navy told the Star- Advertiser that the Nakupuna contract “is the direct result of a request made by DOH” during a July 14 closure plan meeting.
The Star-Advertiser reached out to DOH on Wednesday seeking comment and clarification. On Friday a spokesperson said DOH was still in the “process of gathering information” related to the query.
WASHINGTON — The Navy will take out the fuel pipelines at the Red Hill facility in Hawaii as part of its shutdown of the site, a move that the service said Thursday will prevent storing hazardous liquids there and avoid more leaks into the nearby water supply.“This key update demonstrates [our] commitment to never use the tanks for storage of fuel or other hazardous substance storage,” the Navy said.The service’s Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility on Oahu, about 5 miles northwest of downtown Hono...
WASHINGTON — The Navy will take out the fuel pipelines at the Red Hill facility in Hawaii as part of its shutdown of the site, a move that the service said Thursday will prevent storing hazardous liquids there and avoid more leaks into the nearby water supply.
“This key update demonstrates [our] commitment to never use the tanks for storage of fuel or other hazardous substance storage,” the Navy said.
The service’s Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility on Oahu, about 5 miles northwest of downtown Honolulu, was closed a year ago after jet fuel was found in a well that supplies water to tens of thousands of people in military communities in the area, such as Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Some military families said they became sick after drinking contaminated water and filed legal complaints against the Navy, which are still ongoing.
Closing the facility, however, will be a lengthy process that includes removing several million gallons of fuel from the tanks.
In December, the Defense Department decided to close Red Hill “in place,” which means the tanks will simply remain empty and dormant after the fuel is removed. But some members of the Oahu community and advocates are still concerned the military might reopen the site and store fuel there in the future, especially with the U.S. commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific region” and potential national security threats from China.
The Navy on Thursday filed an update to the closure plan that promised to also dismantle Red Hill’s three fuel pipelines, which carried fuel to and from a pump room at Pearl Harbor a few miles away. Taking out those pipelines would make it much more difficult for the Navy to resume fuel storage at Red Hill. Previously, the Navy was planning only to clean out the pipelines.
“With the pipelines removed, the tanks cannot be refilled with fuel,” the 12-page update to the Navy plan states. “Thus, pipeline removal is a clear and tangible demonstration of [our] commitment to the public, regulatory agencies, and other stakeholders that the Red Hill facility will never be used again for storage of fuel or hazardous chemicals.”
Ernie Lau, the manager and chief engineer of the Honolulu Board of Water Supply and a major opponent of storing fuel at Red Hill, said previously that as long as the pipelines were still there, the Navy could again store fuel there one day. He called the Navy’s updated plan “promising” and “a positive step.”
Meredith Berger, assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and the environment, said the updated plan “continues to prioritize the Navy’s commitment to the safety of the Oahu community and environmental health, and reinforces our assurance of transparency.”
Entirely removing the pipelines, the Navy said, provides three other major benefits — it completely removes residual fuel from the pipes, it creates more space for future “non-fuel reuse” and it cuts out long-term maintenance costs. The Navy hasn’t said much yet, however, about what could be the future non-fuel reuse of the Red Hill site.
Officials have said the defueling process at Red Hill is expected to take until at least January. The final closure of the site will take about three years and cost roughly $120 million. The Navy said dismantling the pipelines will not affect the schedule.
Last year, the Navy also considered three other options for closing the Red Hill facility, all of which were more expensive and would take longer to complete. A contractor analyzed all four options and agreed with the Navy that closing Red Hill “in place” was the best one.
While encouraged by the Navy’s updated plan, Lau said he would have no concerns if the Navy took two more steps in closing Red Hill — shutting down the pump room in Pearl Harbor and removing the steel liners in all 20 storage tanks.
“Because there could also be trapped fuel behind the quarter-inch steel plate that’s been gathering there for the last 80 years,” he said.
Lau also recommended filling the 20 empty storage tanks at Red Hill with an inert material to ensure they can’t store fuel in the future.
Pulling the steel liners and filling the tanks with a safe material, however, have already been rejected by the Navy. Both were suggested separately as two of the other closure options that the Navy considered. The contractor’s analysis in December said the option to refill the tanks with an inert material would cost $443 million and take five years to complete and the option to remove the steel liners would take $581 million and seven years.
The Hawaii Department of Health and Environmental Protection Agency still must sign off on the Pentagon’s Red Hill closure plan. The state’s health department said it is reviewing the plan, which it received Wednesday.
Another 1,000 military family members and civilians filed legal claims against the federal government Tuesday stemming from illnesses that they suffered after drinking water that was contaminated with jet ...
Another 1,000 military family members and civilians filed legal claims against the federal government Tuesday stemming from illnesses that they suffered after drinking water that was contaminated with jet fuel near the Navy’s Red Hill storage facility in Hawaii, their attorneys said.
“The Navy has long promoted secrecy over truth when it comes to water contamination and toxic exposure,” said attorney Kristina Baehr, who is representing military and civilian families in the case. “Now, 1,002 new claimants seek truth and accountability for the Navy’s failure to warn them to stop using the water the Navy knew was toxic.”
The Navy’s Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility on Oahu, about 5 miles northwest of Honolulu, was closed a year ago after jet fuel was found in a well that supplied water to tens of thousands of people in military communities in the area, such as Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Hundreds of people already have filed legal complaints against the government over the contaminated water. The new additions are now in the administrative complaint phase under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which means the government could still settle with them, the attorneys said.
“The affected military and civilian families suffer from a widening range of frightening, debilitating health effects because of the U.S. Navy’s allegedly reluctant, inconsistent delivery of medical care and its seeming secrecy,” said a joint statement by the plaintiffs’ attorneys at the Motley Rice, Just Well Law and Hosoda law firms.
“The Navy has taken responsibility for the contamination itself and promised to make it right. These claims give the Navy the chance to do so,” said Baehr, the founder of Just Well Law.
Jet fuel at Red Hill spilled into the water supply on at least two occasions in 2021, and people who drank the contaminated water experienced problems such as seizures, gastrointestinal disorders, neurological issues, burns, rashes, lesions, thyroid abnormalities, migraines and neurobehavioral challenges, according to the lawsuit already filed against the government.
The government said in a court document filed in May that it doesn’t dispute there was a “breach of duty of care” at Red Hill and acknowledged people “suffered injuries compensable under the Federal Tort Claims Act.”
If the government doesn’t settle with the 1,002 new complainants, the cases could join the pending lawsuit — Patrick Feindt Jr. et al., v. the United States of America — in U.S. District Court, the attorneys said. The lawsuit already includes about 300 people who are suing the government over the Red Hill spill.
“The truth as to what happened at Red Hill in 2021 is indisputable. Before, during and after the contamination, as more than 93,000 military service members, their family members and civilians relied on the government for safe water on the island of Oahu, the Navy harbored toxic secrets,” the lawsuit states. “As these families would discover, the water they drank and bathed in was dangerously contaminated. And government officials knew all along.”
The attorneys said the military failed to provide adequate medical care for those who became sick, though the government has specific testing and care standards for those exposed to hazardous chemicals such as jet fuel.
“These families are still sick, and 67% of our clients report that they still have adverse health symptoms,” Baehr said.
The Pentagon and the Navy have not publicly responded to the complaints because the legal process is ongoing. But the Navy has promised Red Hill will never contaminate the community’s water supply again. The service is dismantling the storage depot, which could take about three years and cost $120 million, officials have said. Three weeks ago, the Navy also agreed to take apart the pipelines that moved fuel between Red Hill and a pump house at Pearl Harbor over concerns that leaving them intact would make it easier for the Navy to store fuel there again in the future.
“With the pipelines removed, the tanks cannot be refilled with fuel,” the Navy said this month in an update to its closure plan. “Pipeline removal is a clear and tangible demonstration of [our] commitment to the public, regulatory agencies and other stakeholders that the Red Hill facility will never be used again for storage of fuel or hazardous chemicals.”
The Navy’s plan allows for “non-fuel reuse” of the Red Hill facility, but no specific details have been provided about what it could be.