Protests Continue Against Navy, Red Hill Underground Fuel Tanks
Originally published in the Coconut Wireless, December 15, 2021.
Safe, clean water is essential for life. Not just human life, but all life on Earth! Ministries have been founded to provide clean water to live out the mandate that Jesus gives us in the Gospel of Matthew when he says, "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me." Now people's access to safe water in Hawai'i is threatened by the U.S. Navy's fuel tanks at Kapūkakī, known as Red Hill, on O'ahu. The underground fuel tanks at Kapūkakī were first constructed in 1940 and generally hold 180 million gallons of oil-based fuels. They sit just 100 feet above the water table and are 1/2 mile away from wells that supply water for over 93,000 people, schools, churches, and businesses.
Within the past month alone, thousands of O'ahu residents have been directly impacted by water found to contain petroleum up to 350 times higher than the safe limit for drinking. Sick and hospitalized from consuming tainted water, advised not to use the water coming through their pipes for drinking, cleaning, or hygiene; many have been displaced from their homes. One of our churches, Moanalua Community Church, has also been affected by tainted water. The Red Hill fuel tanks, which have a history of leaks, have caused concern for years. Now many more voices are speaking out, calling "Shut Down Red Hill Tanks," and urging the Navy and government to take bold action to prevent further contamination and to care for those affected.
The Navy's attempts to downplay the situation and their actions in response to the crisis cause more of us to question whether or not the military can be trusted to keep us safe. The 'āina and wai that sustain us have always been best protected and cared for by those who have lived in harmony with these very lands and waters for generations. As people who have been nourished by this water and depend on this water for life, let's make sure to protect our most vital resource shared by the island and generations to come. It is an important theological question, what we as Christians and our congregations are called to do.