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In suit, citizens group seeks to speed up timeline for emptying Red Hill tanks

“The U.S. military is one of the biggest polluters in the world,” said plaintiff Clarence “Ku” Ching, a Native Hawaiian activist from Hawaii island.
Published: Jun. 14, 2022 at 5:32 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 14, 2022 at 6:22 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A citizens group is suing the Navy for violations of the federal Clean Water Act, saying they want the emptying of the Red Hill fuel tanks to happen more quickly.

“The U.S. military is one of the biggest polluters in the world,” said plaintiff Clarence “Ku” Ching, a Native Hawaiian activist from Hawaii island.

Five Hawaii citizens with the Wai Ola Alliance have joined the suit against the Navy, claiming violations of federal law.

Last year’s fuel spills from the Navy’s Red Hill tanks sickened thousands of people and left 93,000 people without tap water for months. The group says the Navy must act now to address the crisis.

“It’s urgent and mission critical for the people of Hawaii and so that’s what part of this lawsuit is about to make it go,” said Daniel Cooper, attorney, Sycamore Law in San Francisco.

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Photos from a Navy contractor’s report at Red Hill found leakage through a tunnel wall, a deteriorated slab and fire risks for workers. Extensive repairs at the facility and pipelines could take up to a year while de-fueling would be another one to two years, according to the report.

“It’s totally shocking because they make these representations that everything has been well maintained, well checked,” said plaintiff Melodie Aduja, co-chair of the Hawaii Democratic Party’s environmental caucus.

The Navy has been filtering up to 5 million gallons of water per day into Halawa Stream since January.

In a letter, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro told U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele that the Navy has pumped more than 537 million gallons of water from the Red Hill well into the stream to prevent the contamination from spreading.

That the water is regularly tested, but activists still question the safety of the water, which is flowing to Pearl Harbor.

“It’s hard to trust what they are telling us in the first place,” said plaintiff Pete Doktor, a Moanalua resident and Army veteran.

The plaintiffs want the discharges stopped.

The Navy has not responded to the lawsuit.

The group is demanding civil penalties of nearly $60,000 per violation per day. It also says the Health Department hasn’t held the military accountable, but DOH disagrees.

“The Department of Health continues to do everything in its power to hold the military accountable for its actions and inactions with regard to the Red Hill disaster,” said the agency, in a statement.

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