It has become increasingly clear that the Navy has lied for years and even in the last weeks about the safety of its Kapūkaki (Red Hill) underground fuel tanks. Kaʻohewai—a coalition of Hawaiian organizations rising in defense of Kapūkaki, and dedicated to nurturing and sustaining the well-being of our water, land, and the life they support—is calling for the immediate removal of the 20 Kapūkaki Navy fuel tanks.
“Kaʻohewai is standing firm, demanding that the military immediately remove its 20 fuel tanks and remediate the damage they caused,” says Andre Perez, a leader of Kaʻohewai and the Organizer of HULI, the Hawaiʻi Unity and Liberation Institute. “This morning Kaʻohewai is building and dedicating a koʻa at the doorstep of the command headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Itʼs a ceremonial place where our lāhui, and others who support the long-term vitality of Hawaiʻiʼs waters, can call upon our akua (gods), ʻaumākua (ancestral gods), and kūpuna (ancestors) to help restore life and full health back to Kapūkaki. It is also a place where we can commit ourselves to do the same,” added Perez.
The koʻa will remain in place as a focal point for Hawaiian religious practices until the Navy removes its fuel tanks. Kaʻohewai is urging all those who care about our precious water resources to offer at the koʻa their prayers and wai (fresh water) from their own lands. Koʻa are ceremonial focal points that draw and multiply abundance, health, and ola (life). Koʻa can focus on fishes, birds, or in this case, life-giving water and all the akua associated with ola.
“Nothing is more important to the well-being of our islands and the life it supports than wai, precious water. Wai is a kino lau (body form) of our gods Kāne and Kanaloa. When we think of land and water as the bodies of our gods who nurture life, we care for those bodies. When we see land and water as commodities for human benefit, we exploit them,” said Kalehua Krug, one of Kaʻohewaiʼs leaders, Principal of Ka Waihona Public Charter School, and a leader of the Kanaeokana network. “We are here to protect Kāne and Kanaloa,” added Krug.
Kaʻohewai, and many others throughout Hawaiʻi, are calling for the immediate removal of the fuel tanks. The Navy system is nearly 80 years old, involves single-lined tanks, houses up to 250 million gallons of fuel in 20 tanks each 250 feet tall and 100 feet in diameter, and moves fuel to our oceanside along 3.5 miles of 32-inch pipes. This year alone that system, which sits only 100 feet above the Hālawa aquifer, has released over 15,000 gallons of fuel.
The Navyʼs concealment of the full impact of those spills exacerbates the problem. If not for the readily detectable levels of fuel making its way to faucets of schools and peopleʼs homes, the public may never have learned that the Navyʼs spills reached our aquifer. On November 20 the Navy claimed that 14,000 gallons of a mix of fuel and water were released from a fire suppression system and assured the public that it was contained in a lower tunnel and recovered. As late as November 29, the Navy asserted that there were no signs of fuel in their water system. Now, faced with independently verified findings of extremely high levels of fuel contamination, the Navy is changing its story and blaming the problem on the November 20 spill of 14,000 gallons that it earlier said was under control.
“The Navy and its fellow military branches have wreaked havoc across our islands and cannot be trusted with our land and water. They promise safety, they fail, they conceal, they apologize, and they expect to resume their behavior. No more. This is the end. We will not let the Navy continue to deceive us and destroy our land and water,” said Perez.