EPA Proposes New Red Hill Settlement With Navy To Protect Drinking Water

A year after thousands of Pearl Harbor residents drank fuel-contaminated water, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the military drafted a new voluntary agreement outlining next steps.

The proposed settlement, called the Administrative Consent Order, would require the Navy and the Defense Logistics Service to do two things they had already promised. Safely defuel, close down Red Hill, and properly operate and maintain the drinking water system. EPA said in a public notice.

The goal, according to the draft signed on Tuesday, is to “address and prevent solid and hazardous waste emissions and protect drinking water, natural resources, human health and the environment.”

Joint Task Force-Red Hill (JTF-RH) and Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility (RHBFSF) leaders meet subject matter experts during a tour of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility (RHBFSF) in Halawa, Hawaii, September 20. I'm listening to  , 2022. Joint Task Force - Red Hill will work with state and federal stakeholders to set the terms for the closure of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility while continuing to rebuild trust with Hawaii State and local stakeholders. Ensures safe and rapid defueling of the Oahu community.  (U.S. military photo by Spc. Matthew Mackintosh)
Navy officials have been working to drain the Red Hill storage facility after drinking water in the Pearl Harbor area was contaminated with fuel last year. US Army Pacific Public Affairs

“This order demonstrates the EPA’s commitment to protecting Oahu’s aquifer from pollution,” EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman said in a statement.

The tentative agreement comes after a series of failures at last year’s World War II-era naval installations poisoned drinking water around Pearl Harbor with fuel, leaving families with ongoing health problems. everything. If approved, it will run in parallel with the Hawaii Department of Health emergency order requiring the facility to be defueled.

The EPA said efforts are needed to address current contamination and prevent and contain future leaks, including regular flushing of water systems. Water quality testing in homes, schools and businesses. Semiannual testing of Red Hill tanks. and weekly soil vapor test. We also seek community engagement in the form of quarterly public updates where residents can comment and ask questions.

Amy Miller, who heads the EPA’s Regional Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division, said the agreement was formed in light of last year’s contamination and EPA inspections that found significant problems with the Navy’s Red Hill fuel operations and drinking water systems.

“Based on our inspection, it was clear that there were updates that were necessary to ensure that the drinking water system is functioning properly and performing in a manner that maintains it.

The public has until 6 February to submit their comments on the plan. www.regulations.gov Below the docket number “EPA-R09-RCRA-2022-0970The EPA said it would hold a public meeting the week of Jan. 16 to discuss the details of the order and answer questions. The date, time and location will be announced later.

This isn’t the first time the EPA has entered into a regulatory agreement with the Navy regarding Red Hill.

In 2014, an estimated 27,000 gallons of fuel were released from one of the Red Hill tanks. Failed to respond to alarm over a month. After that incident, the EPA and the Navy signed an Consent Administrative Order, or AOC, in 2015. The purpose of that agreement was to “implement infrastructure improvements to address fuel emissions and protect human health and the environment.” To his website for the EPA.

After the latest disaster, an environmental advocate said of the 2015 AOC: It turned out to be a failure.

In that arbitrary regulatory structure, regulators set deadlines only for the Navy. blow them away No clear result.

For example, the AOC mandated that the Navy upgrade its facilities by 2037. The Navy ignored that requirement, pledging in 2019 to either beef up its tanks with technology that doesn’t yet exist, or defuel them by 2045. The latest crisis has begun. before any of those things happen.

“Eight years later, there is still no real progress on the AOC,” said Ernie Lau of the Honolulu City Water Authority last December, at the beginning of the water pollution crisis. “So if the process is to be sustained, it should be one that allows regulators to act quickly and make decisions quickly, keeping the Navy’s feet close to the fire.”

The BWS did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Miller said the 2015 AOC remains in effect and requires investigation and correction of fuel emissions. But the new agreement adds stronger mechanisms for EPA oversight and greater public participation, she said. Miller said the EPA could impose punitive fines or implicate senior leaders if the Navy fails to comply with the new consent order.

In a joint statement Wednesday, the Sierra Club of Hawaii and Earth Justice said they were disappointed that the EPA did not consult with the BWS and members of the community when proposing a new agreement.For years it has sounded alarm bells for the Navy’s Red Hill facility. ”

“As a result, federal officials have created one more toothless and potentially dangerous pact that allows us to risk devastation to our water, our island homes, and our very lives. We’ve been creating for over a year,” said the group.

“Hawaiian residents must use the opportunity for public comment to demand improvements in the EPA.”

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