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Hawaiʻi DOH fines Navy $325K for Red Hill fuel storage facility violations

Navy Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility
Shannon Haney/Naval Supply Systems Command Fle
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U.S. Navy
(Jan. 26, 2018) A tunnel inside of the Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility. (U.S. Navy Photo/Released)

HONOLULU — The state on Wednesday said it was fining the U.S. Navy more than $325,000 for operations and maintenance violations at a massive underground fuel storage facility on Oʻahu.

The state Department of Health said in a news release the fines resulted from inspections it undertook of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in September and October last year.

Navy Region Hawaiʻi said in a statement it was just notified of the fines and was reviewing the notice. It said it hadn't received the Department of Health’s inspection report even though it had been told it would be ready by January of this year.

“The Navy remains committed to maintaining safety in all operations of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility and to timely communication with state and federal regulators,” the statement said.

News of the fines comes one day after the Navy said operator error caused it to release 1,618 gallons (6,125 liters) of jet fuel from a pipeline at the Red Hill fuel tank storage facility in May.

The Red Hill facility holds 20 underground fuel storage tanks near Pearl Harbor, providing the Navy with a crucial fuel reserve in the Pacific.

But the tanks, which date to World War II and are each the equivalent of about 25 stories tall, also sit above an aquifer that supplies a quarter of the water consumed in urban Honolulu.

A 2014 leak from one of the aging tanks generated concerns the facility could contaminate one of Oʻahu’s most important water sources.

Navy Red Hill fuel storage tank Department of Health
Hawaii Department of Health
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More than half the fine — $179,982 — resulted from the Navy’s failure to perform line tightness testing of repaired piping before returning the pipes to service, the Department of Health said.

Failure to maintain adequate release detection for two double-walled underground product recovery storage tanks resulted in a $90,000 penalty.

There was a smaller penalty for failing to operate and maintain corrosion protection for metal components of tank and metal piping.

The Department of Health regulates underground storage tanks in the state under the authorization of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“The state’s effort to strengthen regulations around inspection and monitoring was critical to identifying these violations and ensuring that underground storage tanks are maintained safely,” said Deputy Director of Environmental Health Kathleen Ho. “DOH will continue to enforce all regulations to protect Hawaiʻi residents and our environment.”

Meanwhile, the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi is taking the health department to court for failing to release documents about fuel leaks at Pearl Harbor that it believes could affect its contested case hearing with the Navy over its operating permit. The Navy objected to their release, citing national security issues.

Wayne Tanaka, executive director of the Sierra Club, said the documents will be critical in understanding whether the Navy can monitor and respond to fuel leaks that could endanger the health of tens of thousands on Oʻahu by contaminating drinking water.

The Navy is currently seeking a new five-year permit to operate the fuel storage facility at Red Hill, which must be granted by the state Department of Health. The next meeting of the DOH’s Fuel Tank Advisory Committee is Thursday.

Prior to the Department of Health's announcement, Capts. Gordy Meyer and Bert Hornyak spoke with HPR's The Conversation about a May 2021 fuel leak.

Navy Capts. Gordie Meyer and Bert Hornyak - Oct. 27, 2021
The Conversation

Read the full DOH "Notice of Violation and Order" in the box below or click here.

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