Proposed General Convention resolution calls for support of clean water in O‘ahu, Hawai‘i

By Shireen Korkzan
Posted Apr 26, 2024

In August 2022, water protectors on Kauai came together along a roadside and held signs calling for the Red Hill storage facility’s closure to get the attention of Vice President Kamala Harris as she arrived for vacation in August 2022. Photo: Will Sato

[Episcopal News Service] The Social Justice & U.S. Policy committees are considering a resolution calling for “Protection of Water ‘Ola I Ka Wa – Water is Life,’” which calls for General Convention to support protecting clean drinking water on Hawai‘i’s island of O‘ahu, where Honolulu is located. 

D008, originally misassigned to the committees considering international policy, is one of four proposed resolutions under consideration by the committees. The other resolutions will address religious liberty and regulations on general artificial intelligence, as well as child labor protections.

 O‘ahu, the most populous Hawaiian island, has been facing a clean water crisis since November 2021, when the U.S. Navy’s Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility leaked 19,000 gallons of jet fuel into the water system serving 100,000 residents. The facility has a history of well-documented spills and ongoing leaks. More than 90,000 people moved to hotels after jet fuel contaminated the tap water in their homes. The World War II-era underground storage facility is scheduled to permanently close no sooner than by the end of this year.

In response to the fuel leak, thousands of locals and military family members are now suing the U.S. government for damages, including chemical burns after bathing in fuel-contaminated water and chronic hydrocarbon toxicity exposure. The U.S. Justice Department admitted to being responsible for the fuel leak in May 2023.

D008 also calls for General Convention to instruct The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations to advocate for restoration of the land where Red Hill storage facility sits, which is 100 feet above one of O‘ahu’s main aquifers, and for transparency by the Navy and other government agencies.

Federal agencies, U.S. military and Christian missionaries have a long, complicated history with Hawai‘i and its native inhabitants, who once maintained a clean-water-dependent complex agricultural system that stretched from high in the mountains down to the sea. Their way of life was self-sustaining. Over time, Native Hawaiians lost control of their natural resources.

“Water is necessary for life; we all need it. For the island of O‘ahu to continue to sustain human, animal and plant life we need clean water,” the Rev. Jennifer Latham, associate rector of Holy Nativity Church in Honolulu, told Episcopal News Service in May 2023.

The Social Justice & U.S. Policy committees are scheduled to host an open hearing on the four resolutions on May 23 at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. 

Once finalized, resolutions will advance to the 81st General Convention, to be held June 23-28 in Louisville, Kentucky. The General Convention is the governing body of The Episcopal Church. Every three years it meets as a bicameral legislature dividing its authority between the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops and composed of members from each diocese.

-Shireen Korkzan is a reporter and assistant editor for Episcopal News Service based in northern Indiana. She can be reached at skorkzan@episcopalchurch.org.


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