Hawaii Fines US Navy for Unauthorized Sewage Release

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aerial view of the USS Arizona and USS Missouri Memorials at Ford Island, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam
An aerial view of the USS Arizona and USS Missouri Memorials at Ford Island, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. (Johans Chavarro/U.S. Navy)

HONOLULU — The Hawaii Department of Health said Tuesday it has fined the U.S. Navy $8.8 million for repeatedly discharging untreated or partially treated sewage into state waters from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

The department said in a news release that it recorded 766 counts of the Navy discharging pollutants in excess of limits established by a permit.

The pollutants were released between January 2020 and July 2022 from the Hawaii Wastewater Treatment Pant operated by the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, the department said.

The agency also found 212 counts of operation and maintenance failures.

“The Navy’s failure to properly operate and maintain this wastewater treatment plant led to the pollution of state waters,” said Kathleen Ho, the department’s deputy director of environmental health, in a statement. “We are taking action to protect our state’s water resources and to hold the Navy accountable to make critical repairs and prevent a potential catastrophic failure of the facility.”

Navy Region Hawaii said the Navy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agreed in June 2021 to address deficiencies with the treatment plant. The Navy is on track to meet these obligations, which may also address some of the issues pointed out by Hawaii's Department of Health, it said.

The Navy continues to improve operations at the plant and it remains operational, it said.

Separately, the department earlier this year ordered the Navy to shut down its Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility after jet fuel leaked from a pipe into the Navy's drinking water at Pearl Harbor. The military has set up a task force to drain fuel from Red Hill's massive storage tanks by July 2024.

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