Board of Water Supply files $1.2B claim against Navy to cover costs of responding to Red Hill crisis
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Board of Water Supply has filed a $1.2 billion claim against the Navy in a bid to recoup the mounting costs associated with responding to the Red Hill crisis.
BWS Manager and Chief Engineer Ernie Lau said the fuel spill at the facility, which tainted the Navy’s own water system, has triggered a host of remediation and monitoring actions.
Water quality tests show no fuel in the public water system, but it is being threatened.
“The emergency is ongoing and unresolved,” Lau said.
The Navy must respond to the tort claim within six months. If it’s denied, which is likely, the next step would be an undoubtedly lengthy challenge in federal court.
The Office of the Judge Advocate General said in a statement that the Navy received the Board of Water Supply’s claim and is evaluating it.
Meanwhile, the defueling of the Red Hill facility is now 99.5% complete, with more than 100 million gallons of fuel removed from the WWII-era tanks.
But the operation to close the facility is far from over.
According to the Pentagon, it’ll cost at least $280 million just to empty the tanks of fuel.
That figure doesn’t include costs associated with mitigation or monitoring.
Lau noted that right now, the Board of Water Supply’s tab for responding to the crisis is being covered “by all of us.” Those costs include increased water quality monitoring efforts.
The bulk of the $1.2 billion claim, however, is to cover the cost of replacing the Halawa Shaft and two smaller wells, which the agency was forced to shut down to prevent fuel contamination.
“We feel we have to pursue this action against the Navy,” Lau said.
“We have to see where we will be met with respect to the Navy acknowledging that this is there’s to fix,” said Naalehu Anthony, Board of Water Supply Board of Directors, chair.
“Everyone is watching,” he added.
The claim comes as the Board of Water Supply seeks to increase water rates by 8% to 10% annually through 2028 — effectively boosting water prices by more than 50%.
Part of that increase will help cover the costs associated with the Red Hill crisis, but Lau noted the majority of the rate hike is to pay for higher costs of personnel, operations and repairs.
The leak of thousands of gallons of fuel at the Red Hill underground fuel storage facility in November 2021 tainted the Navy’s water system and sickened thousands of Hawaii families.
The fallout of the crisis continues, including with an ongoing criminal probe.
The Navy’s own investigation found the Red Hill leak was the result of a series of preventable, “cascading” failures, including a culture of poor supervision and operational safety.
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