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Navy Closure Task Force – Red Hill Begins Tank Sludge Removal

by NCTF-RH Public Affairs
28 June 2024

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM – Navy Closure Task Force-Red Hill (NCTF-RH) will commence sludge removal work at tanks 7 and 8 at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) inspectors conducting oversight at the facility before and during sludge removal operations. 

NCTF-RH opened tank 7 for personnel to gain access on June 21. This was a key step for workers to install safety and lighting equipment required for sludge removal and cleaning operations. A similar process started with tank 8 the week before. 

Sludge is a waste product mixture of fuel, water, dirt, metal particles, and microorganisms that forms at the bottom of all fuel tanks. To remove sludge, workers are safely lowered down into the tank in a metal basket wearing personal protective equipment to manually shovel out sludge via 5-gallon buckets used to fill 55-gallon drums. Working in the facility tunnels, drums are set inside containment devices for spill prevention and sealed. The drums will then be transported off island to a permitted waste disposal facility on the continental U.S.  

Joint Task Force-Red Hill (JTF-RH) successfully removed over 104 million gallons of fuel from the facility before turning over the closure mission to NCTF-RH. The JTF estimated about 2,000 gallons of sludge was in each of the 14 tanks that require cleaning. However, initial NCTF-RH activities in tanks 8 and 7 indicate less sludge is present than initially estimated. After the sludge removal work and catwalk certification is completed, workers will install more equipment in preparation for tank washing operations.  

Prior to entering the tanks, a marine chemist certified both tanks as safe to enter after they were ventilated to remove volatile organic compounds. Ventilation, which brings fresh air into the tank to support safe access for workers, will continue throughout the cleaning process. The Navy is authorized to ventilate up to two tanks simultaneously in accordance with DOH requirements. Atmosphere quality monitoring will continue throughout the periods in which tanks are ventilated. 

For more information about NCTF-RH, visit or download our free mobile app by searching for “NCTF-Red Hill” in the Apple App store or Google Play store.