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Environmental advocates increase legal pressure on Navy to expedite Red Hill defueling

Wai Ola Alliance v. US Navy

Lawyers for the Wai Ola Alliance want to see a sense of urgency surrounding the defueling of the Navy Red Hill storage facility.

The umbrella of environmental advocates amended its legal complaint Tuesday to have more of a say in the timeline.

In addition to upholding the Clean Water Act, it's looking at a second argument as it pertains to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

The act "prohibits the creation of an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health and the environment from solid or hazardous waste," said Wai Ola Alliance attorney Daniel Cooper.

"It became clear to us that the Navy was not going to defuel those tanks for six or more years — no sooner than six years and probably much longer. Given the built-in delays and excuses in the defueling plan and the lack of critical path planning, it's more of a gesture than an actual defueling plan — is what our engineer tells us," Cooper told The Conversation.

He said the sitting fuel is "a ticking time bomb that could destroy the Sole Source Aquifer for most of Oʻahu at any time."

"That's what drove us to amend the complaint and add our RCRA claims so that we could compel a much faster and safer defueling and closure and cleanup," Cooper said.

The alliance has also added about half a dozen more plaintiffs to its legal challenge against the Navy.

"The alliance has concluded that citizens need to have a seat at the table. It can't just be the agencies because they failed us in the past. We need to have a seat at the table with a federal judge making sure that everyone's being honest," he added.

Cooper said the Navy has about 60 days to respond to the complaint or file for a dismissal.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Aug. 30, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
Sophia McCullough is a digital news producer. Contact her at news@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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