Updated: Dec 21, 2021
The White House is promising a formal response to the dire situation involving the Red Hill fuel storage tanks. That acknowledgment comes just hours after Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA) CEO Kūhiō Lewis sent a letter urging President Biden to take immediate action on the tanks threatening the aquifer that supplies water to nearly half of Oʻahu’s residents.
“Many fear that we are on the doorstep of disaster, or worse, that we have already crossed the threshold,” said Lewis. “The reports over the last few days of area residents – including military service members and their families – becoming seriously ill from drinking water contaminated with petroleum is horrifying.”
When President Biden recently met with CNHA in Washington, D.C., he committed to addressing issues impacting the Native Hawaiian community. Lewis said the U.S. Navy’s inaction and unresponsiveness to ongoing community concerns about the Red Hill tanks left him no other recourse but to reach out to the President for kōkua. CNHA’s letter cites the cultural importance of water to Native Hawaiians, noting that the integrity and well-being of our ‘ohana and community are intrinsically connected to the health of our islands, their fragile ecosystems, and finite natural resources.
During a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee, Hawaiʻi Rep. Kaialiʻi Kahele called the Red Hill issue “a crisis of astronomical proportions.”
“People are getting sick,” he said. “Animals are getting sick, and our military families need answers and the island of Oʻahu needs answers.”
Lewis will join other community leaders and activists at a press conference and rally at the Prince Kūhiō Federal Building beginning at 2:30 p.m. this afternoon to demand a meeting with the visiting Secretary of the Navy. He is urging the Native Hawaiian community to take part in the rally and to join the growing chorus of voices demanding the shutdown of the Red Hill fuel storage tanks.
The Red Hill crisis will be the focus of a panel discussion at the 20th Annual Native Hawaiian Convention hosted by CNHA next week. The panel will include: Congressman Kaialiʻi Kahele; professor and former state water commissioner Kamanamaikalani Beamer; Honolulu Board of Water Supply Chief Engineer Ernie Lau; and Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi Director Wayne Chung Tanaka. To take part in the panel discussion, or for more information, click here.
Kūhiō Lewis is available for interviews.