Navy Starts Inspection of Red Hill Tank Three Months After Leak


The Navy has begun visually inspecting a massive tank that leaked an estimated 27,000 gallons of fuel in January at its Red HIll Underground Fuel Facility, mauka of Pearl Harbor. 

The Navy had to drain the fuel and air out the fumes before workers could safely climb into the tank that’s big enough to hold Aloha Tower. 

The Navy said that no official findings as to the cause of the leak are available at this time. 

From a Navy press release: 

The visual inspections are part of the process to determine what may have caused a drop in levels at the tank that were reported on Jan. 13.  Calculations of those changes in level indicate that a release of up to 27,000 gallons may have occurred.

The visual inspection work is on schedule following preparations to vent the tank and install proper lighting, scaffolding and other safety requirements.  The visual inspection is expected to continue for at least several weeks.  No initial findings are available at this time.

The Navy also provided their Initial Release Response Report to the State Department of Health today, on schedule as required within 90 days.

"Both the inspection of the tank and our report to DOH are within the timelines we have committed to," said Captain Mike Williamson, commanding officer of Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Hawaii and regional engineer for Commander, Navy Region Hawaii. "And all drinking water samples continue to be in compliance with all State and Federal regulations," he added.

"We are wholly committed to protecting the environment and our vital fresh water sources," Williamson said.  "I believe we have taken prudent measures to ensure the water remains safe to drink and we look forward to continue working collaboratively with all stakeholders to ensure public safety while maintaining this critical national strategic asset."

The Red Hill fuels facility is a national strategic asset and continues to provide vital, secure fuel storage for ships and aircraft of U.S. Pacific Fleet and other military branches.

The Navy is working with the State Department of Health and the City & County of Honolulu Board of Water Supply to maintain an open dialogue to ensure the safety of drinking water.

Photo: Gates to Red Hill (PF Bentley/Civil Beat)

Sophie Cocke

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City Wants to Hear from Food Truck Vendors on New Permitting Law


A new law that requires food trucks operating in the Hawaii Capital Special District to obtain a permit is sparking opposition from food vendors.

To help placate concerns, the city is holding a meeting Thursday (April 24) at 6 p.m. at Mission Memorial Hearings Room to hear from the public as officials develops rules for implementing the ordinance.

From a city press release

The Department of Transportation Services (DTS), with the assistance of the Department of Enterprise Services (DES), will hold a public meeting to receive comments and concerns regarding the implementation of Bill 1 tonight, at 6 p.m. in the Mission Memorial Hearings Room.

Input from the public, particularly from food truck owners and operators, is greatly appreciated and will be helpful to DTS and DES in developing rules for the implementation of the bill.  A public hearing will be held once rules have been drafted.

Bill 1, relating to parking, proposed a 2-year pilot project to grant operating permits to mobile food units, or food trucks, within the Hawaii Capital Special District.  Mayor Caldwell returned the bill to Council, unsigned, due to the lack of sufficient input from food truck operators, who will be directly affected by the bill, during the hearing process.  Bill 1 automatically became law on March 28, 2014.   

Sophie Cocke

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Bill That Would Place Ads on Buses is Resurrected


The Honolulu City Council’s Budget Committee deferred a proposal by Mayor Kirk Caldwell in January that would place advertisements on the sides of buses.

The bill has attracted strong opposition from groups like the Outdoor Circle, which led the successful fight to ban billboards on Oahu. 

But Bill 69 was resurrected on Wednesday during a budget hearing and could pass as City Council members grapple with how to balance the 2015 fiscal year budget. 

The bill passed out of the committee with a 5-0 vote. Councilman Joey Manahan voted yes with reservations. The bill now goes to the full City Council for review. 

Caldwell has said that the extra revenue, which could bring in about $8 million a year, would be used to help restore public bus service that was cut due to fiscal constraints. 

Photo: The Bus (Flickr courtesy of ninacoco)

— Sophie Cocke

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Can Aquaculture Revitalize Hawaii Ag?


ThinkTech Hawaii is hosting a public forum Wednesday, April 23, on new technology in agriculture. 

The focus will be on aquaculture and aquaponics, which have been all the rage in Hawaii for the past few years. But can the closed-system of farming produce, that often relies on tilapia for nutrients, live up to its promise of high, economic yields?

Ag experts will be speaking at a forum at the YWCA on Richards Street from 11:30 a.m. — 1:30 p.m titled, New Tech Comes to Hawaii Agriculture.

From ThinkTech Hawaii: 

Come to the Downtown Forum at the Laniakea YWCA on Richards Street, enjoy the panel program, the lunch from Cafe Julia and collegial networking among the people you know.

The agriculture that built the state is over. But with the advantages of new technology, especially aquaculture and aquaponics, locally produced food can give us the self-sufficiency we need.

What’s the technology? Who’s doing it? How will it change Hawaii? How can you get in on it?

Maria Gallo, Dean of CTAHR at UH Manoa, will moderate the program

Jessica WooleyChair, House Committee on Agriculture, will provide opening remarks

Our panel of experts:

  • Dong-Fang Deng - Oceanic Institute 
  • Alan Everson - Aquaculture Coordinator, NOAA 
  • Dennis Gonsalves - Agricultural Scientist 
  • Gavin Key - Researcher for Kampachi Farms 
  • Fred Lau - Aquaponics Famer, Mari’s Gardens 
  • Todd Low - State Department of Agriculture


Photo: Tilapia and catfish are used for nutrients at an aquaponics farm at Waiawa Correctional Facility (Sophie Cocke/Civil Beat)

— Sophie Cocke

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House Asks Health Dept. to Study Red Hill Fuel Leaks to Prevent ‘Huge Catastrophe’


Hawaii’s House of Representatives has passed a resolution asking the state health department to convene a task force to study the effects of the January 2014 fuel tank leak at the Navy’s Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility. 

Some 27,000 gallons of jet fuel is believed to have been released from one of the tanks.

Documents also show that there have been at least 30 leaks at the facility over the years that have contaminated the groundwater and threaten drinking water sources. The Navy estimates that about 1.2 million gallons of fuel has leaked over the years.

The House resolution also asks the task force to look into the implications of shutting down the fuel storage facility, which supplies the Pacific fleet, as well as ways to remediate contaminated soil and groundwater. 

"We are asking for a much more deliberative approach to this situation," said Rep. Mark Takai, chairman of the Veterans, Military and International Affairs Committee, in a press release. "The Navy, State, Board of Water Supply and all involved need to take aggressive mitigating action and to work together to prevent a huge catastrophe from happening."

You can read Civil Beat’s past coverage of the Red Hill leaks here: 


Photo: Gates leading to Red Hill (PF Bentley/ Civil Beat)

Sophie Cocke

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Residents Warned About Informal Car Sharing Services


Hawaii residents seeking to earn some extra cash have been renting out their own vehicles at hourly, daily and even long-term rates.

Call it the informal economy or underground marketplace. But it’s in synch with a growing trend in which people are renting out everything from their lawnmower to salad spinner. 

Web sites like Craigslist and RelayRides are helping cultivate the marketplace for personal car-sharing services. A quick search of the sites, shows a cream Volkswagon Beetle offered for $89 a day. For those strapped for cash, there’s a Haleiwa cruiser, with “cosmetic problems,” that rents for just $20 a day or $120 for the week.

However, the state’s Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs is warning both those that rent their cars, as well as the renters themselves, that they should be cautious and check with their auto insurance policies first. 

Either party could find themselves on the hook for major damages or costs associated with injuries if there is an accident. 

"Companies or individuals who are not in compliance with state motor vehicle insurance laws or with Hawaii’s Motor Vehicle Rental Industry law may run significant risks if that vehicle is involved in an accident," Office of Consumer Protection Executive Director Bruce Kim said in a press release. "They could suffer significant adverse financial consequences as a result." 

DCCA stressed that the consumer warning applies to car-sharing programs where people rent out their own vehicles, and not to car rental companies such as Avis or Zipcar.


Photo: random car (Flickr: JoshBerglund19)

Sophie Cocke

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Tell the City What You Think About Affordable Housing


Now’s your chance to weigh in on an affordable housing strategy for Oahu. 

The city’s Department of Planning and Permitting and Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s housing office are conducting an online survey that gives residents a chance to share their views on local housing needs, according to a city press release. 

Developing better housing solutions for Oahu — which has some of the highest rents and housing prices in the nation — is all the more pressing as transit-oriented development gets underway with construction of the Honolulu rail line. 

You can take the survey here:

"The Affordable Housing Strategy will prioritize city resources in the construction and maintenance of affordable housing," according to the press release. "The plan also will be used to revise land use regulations, financial policies, and affordable housing programs. The city’s partners in this effort include the state, housing advocates and developers."


Photo: Honolulu housing (PF Bentley/Civil Beat)

Sophie Cocke

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Aiea Towers Get Green Light from City Council


The Honolulu City Council unanimously approved a zoning change Wednesday for the Live, Work Play Aiea development, a $766 million project that includes five towers and up to 1,500 residential units. 

Bill 68 now goes to Mayor Kirk Caldwell for consideration. 

The developer, Los Angeles-based Robertson Property Group, plans to build on a 14-acre parcel that used to host the Kamehameha Drive-In Theater.

Councilman Breene Harimoto praised the project, which has been in the works for more than four years, as the “wave of the future” and a model in transit-oriented development. 

“It is really important to our district to have this kind of project coming up,” he said. “It is a model project for livable, walkable communities. There are wonderful open spaces, green spaces, gathering spaces.”

However, the project has attracted controversy from some residents who say the development will increase traffic congestion, tax sewer capacity, add noise and potentially reduce trade winds for area homes. 

Councilman Ron Menor, who ultimately voted in favor of the project, also raised reservations Wednesday about how much affordable housing the development would actually create — one of the project’s key selling points.

He said the community had been misled to believe that much of the 1,500 units would be developed as affordable housing. 

 “A careful review of the development agreement indicates that the actual number of affordable (units) could be much fewer than what people expected,” he said.

Menor noted that the developer has the discretion to develop commercial, retail and office space in at least two of the towers. Furthermore, up to 50 percent of the affordable housing can be built off-site. 

John Manavian, an executive vice president at Robertson Properties, told Civil Beat after the hearing that three of the towers will be strictly residential. He said that while not all of the affordable housing has to be built in the towers it must remain in a half-mile vicinity of the project. 

The zoning change, which still must be approved by the mayor, allows the developer to exceed current height limits. 


Photo: Planned Aiea development (Robertson Properties Group)

 — Sophie Cocke

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City to Hold Public Meeting on New Food Truck Regulations


The city is seeking public comments on a new law that requires food truck operators to obtain a permit in order to operate in the Hawaii Capital Special District. 

Mayor Kirk Caldwell allowed the City Council bill to become law last month without his signature. He expressed concerns that the measure passed without hearing any input from food truck operators. 

Food vendors have since raised concerns about the measure. 

From the mayor’s office:

The Department of Transportation Services (DTS), with the assistance of the Department of Enterprise Services (DES), will hold a public meeting to receive comments and concerns regarding the implementation of Bill 1 on Thursday, April 24, 2014, at 6 p.m. in the Mission Memorial Hearings Room.

Input from the public, particularly from food truck owners and operators, is greatly appreciated and will be helpful to DTS and DES in developing rules for the implementation of the bill.  A public hearing will be held once rules have been drafted.

Bill 1, relating to parking, proposed a 2-year pilot project to grand operating permits to mobile food units, or food trucks, within the Hawaii Capital Special District.  Mayor Caldwell returned the bill to Council, unsigned, due to the complete absence of testimony from food truck operators, who will be directly affected by the bill, during the hearing process.  Bill 1 automatically became law on March 28, 2014.   


Food truck in Waikiki (Flickr: yortlabs)

Sophie Cocke

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Honolulu Ranks #1 For Per Capita Solar Installations


Hawaii has once again received top honors for solar energy. 

Honolulu has ranked first among major U.S. cities for the amount of solar installed per person — 265 watts.

This dwarfs other cities. San Jose came in second with 97 watts installed per capita, followed by Wilmington with 96 watts and San Diego with 81 watts. 

Honolulu ranked fifth in the total amount of installed solar, with 91 megawatts, slightly below San Jose and Phoenix. Los Angeles came in first with 132 megawatts of installed solar. 

The rankings were compiled by Environment America, Research and Policy Center.

However, Honolulu’s ranking likely won’t stem the tide of disgruntled solar companies and customers who are facing increased constraints in hooking their solar systems up to Hawaiian Electric Co.’s isolated grid. 

The electric utility says that all the solar threatens to destabilize its grid.

Former U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu recently called HECO’s grid stability claims “another bullshit argument,” in a Forbes article

Chu said solar installations don’t threaten grid stability until they reach 20 percent of the customer base.

On Oahu, about 11 percent of customers currently have solar, according to HECO.

The recent solar “saturation issue” has not only depressed the solar market, but is also spurring a move toward battery storage which allows a customer to go completely off-grid. (PV and battery systems can also remain hooked up to the grid.)

ProVision Solar exec, Marco Mangelsdorf, has recent numbers on Oahu’s significant solar decline: 


Sophie Cocke

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Waialae Avenue Repaving Costs Soar 30 Percent



The cost overruns for the city’s Waialae Avenue repaving project are mounting. 

The project was supposed to cost $9.36 million and be completed last December. But the new estimated total cost to complete the project is now $12.5 million and the work is expected to last through mid to late summer, according to information from the city’s Department of Design and Construction that was forwarded to a constituent on Thursday. 

That’s significantly more than what Civil Beat was told last month. DDC pegged the projected cost overruns at $1 million, in addition to a 10 percent contingency built into the contract. 

The road work, which includes repaving Waialae as well as about a dozen side streets, has dragged on for almost two years now. The work, overseen by contractor, Jas W. Glover, has frustrated local residents who have been dealing with nighttime construction noise, as well as drivers left navigating poor lane markings, uneven asphalt and potholes. 

(You can read Civil Beat’s The Real Costs of Waialae Avenue’s Rocky Roadwork here.)

The city says the difficult road conditions are due to “soft spots,” or excessive moisture beneath the pavement.

Civil Beat’s PF Bentley recently took this Go-Pro video of Waialae Avenue:

Above photo: Waialae Avenue (PF Bentley)

Sophie Cocke

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Waipahu Landfill Cleanup to Continue Under New EPA Agreement


The City of Honolulu has agreed to continue remediation efforts at the old Waipahu landfill, where garbage was burned from 1972 until the site was closed in 1991. 

Under an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the city will embark on a second cleanup phase, which will include assessing human health and ecological risks from residual contamination, evaluating cleanup alternatives and studying the extent of the ash remaining in the soil. 

The city may also install more monitoring wells to test for groundwater contamination. 

"The main cleanup concerns at the landfill are dioxins and heavy metals in the landfill sediments and the risks posed to wetland areas near Pearl Harbor," according to a EPA press release. 

From the EPA press release: 

The landfill is located on the Waipio Peninsula on Oahu and was an ash landfill for the City’s Waipahu Incinerator that burned municipal solid waste from 1972 until the incinerator was closed in 1991. The site encompasses about 54 acres on U.S. Navy, State of Hawaii and City and County of Honolulu property adjacent to the West Loch of Pearl Harbor.  

 This settlement was reached under the authority of the federal Superfund law as part of the site lies within the Pearl Harbor Superfund site, and came after a public comment period. In the last fiscal year, EPA reached agreements with responsible parties to commit an estimated $1.2 billion toward Superfund site studies and cleanups nationwide.

Sophie Cocke

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Honolulu Issues Warning in Wake of Tsunami Advisory


The City of Honolulu is warning swimmers, surfers, boaters and beach goers to stay out of the water following a magnitude 8.2 earthquake that struck off the coast of Chile on Tuesday: 

From the mayor’s office: 

“Stay out of the ocean overnight and tomorrow morning,” said Mayor Kirk Caldwell.  “Thankfully there is no destructive tsunami and it appears there will be no major threat to land on Oahu, but the earthquake in Chile may create dangerous ocean currents from 3 a.m. through the morning.  Safety first.  We are partially activating our Emergency Operations Center with our first responders including police, fire, EMS and Ocean Safety but a full activation is not necessary at this time.”

At 5:45 p.m. the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued the Tsunami Advisory based on data which indicated that no destructive tsunami had been generated, but that waves were dangerous enough to issue the advisory.

The possibility remains that the Chile earthquake will generate unusual currents and wave heights along Oahu shores from 3 a.m. to at least 8 a.m. tomorrow morning.  These wave fluctuations could be hazardous to swimmers, surfers, beach goers and boaters.

The Department of Emergency Management is coordinating with Public Safety officials and leaders in the visitor industry to alert residents and visitors to stay out of the ocean and away from immediate shorelines during this period.  In addition, everyone should stay away from the immediate vicinity of streams and canals that feed directly into the ocean. Boaters should exercise caution when entering or exiting harbors.


Photo: NOAA

— Sophie Cocke

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Major Earthquake Off Chile, Officials Evaluating Tsunami Threat


UPDATE: The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has issued a tsunami advisory for Hawaii. The public is being advised to stay out of the water and away from shores between the hours of 3 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Wednesday. 

A major tsunami is not expected to strike Hawaii, but waves could create strong currents and changes in sea levels.

From PTWC, 5:46 p.m.: 



                     0324 AM HST WED 02 APR 2014

Hawaii News Now is providing live updates of the potential threat to Hawaii on its live blog

A magnitude 8.2 earthquake struck off the northern coast of Chile on Tuesday at 1:47 p.m., Hawaii Standard Time. 

The threat of a tsunami to the Pacific region, including Hawaii, is currently being evaluated by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center

If a tsunami were to hit Hawaii, the estimated earliest arrival time is 3:24 a.m. on Wednesday. 

From PTWC: 



                     0324 AM HST WED 02 APR 2014


A tsunami warning has been issued for Chile, Peru and Ecuador. A tsunami watch is in effect for Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and El Salvador. 


Photo: Location of the earthquake off Chile (NOAA’s Pacific Tsunami Warning Center)

Sophie Cocke

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Caldwell Acts on Five Bills, Expresses Concerns for Food Cart Vendors


Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed three bills into law on Friday relating to publication dispensing racks in Waikiki, alarm systems and increased fees for services administered by the city’s Department of Planning and Permitting. 

Two other bills he returned to the City Council unsigned with letters expressing his reservations about the measures. The bills — related to food trucks and native plants — become law without his signature. 

Caldwell chose not to veto the bills because such power “should be used sparingly,” he said in a press release. 

“Though I have concerns about these bills, they are concerns we can deal with administratively or with legislation therefore I am returning them unsigned,” he said.

Bill 1 requires food truck operators to obtain a permit in order to operate within the Hawaii Capital Special District. 

Caldwell noted in a letter to council members that his administration initially supported the measure as a way to attract more food trucks to the area.

“We also wanted to provide a more structured, fair and competitive business environment for food trucks to operate within while using city parking stalls,” wrote the mayor. 

But food truck operators, who didn’t weigh in on the measure while it was moving through the City Council, have recently expressed concerns that the ordinance will hurt their business. 

“Given this reaction, I have asked the Department of Transportation Services to conduct public hearings, as part of the rulemaking process, to address the complaints and determine whether the issues can be resolved via rulemaking,” he told council members.

Caldwell also said that the food cart permit program, which is in place as a two-year pilot project, amounts to an unfunded mandate. The City Council didn’t allocate any staff or funding to administer the program. 

Caldwell also allowed Bill 4 to become law without his signature.

The measure requires the city to use indigenous and Polynesian introduced plants in public landscaping wherever possible. 

He told council members that state procurement law preempts the city measure. He also said the language of the measure is vague and that other factors should be considered when making landscaping decisions. 

The “use of certain plants for landscaping of city parks, streets, and facilities requires other considerations, such as of cost, availability, suitability, ease of maintenance, soil and climate conditions in which the plant can thrive, the intended purpose of the plant, aesthetics, and most importantly public safety,” he wrote in a separate letter to council members. 

He said it will be particularly difficult to implement the ordinance when it comes to turf grass and street trees. 

As for the bills Caldwell signed, you can read them here: 

Bill 60, relating to publication dispensing racks

Bill 66, relating to alarm systems

Bill 70, relating to fees for certain permits and services administered by the Department of Planning and Permitting 


Photo: Komodo Food Truck in Los Angeles (Flickr: Ricardo Diaz)

Sophie Cocke

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