The Hawaii Department of Health says the Navy informed it this morning of its intent to contest the state’s emergency order demanding that the Navy suspend operations at its Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, clean up contaminated drinking water at its Red Hill shaft, come up with a plan to drain the fuel from its 20 massive underground tanks and figure out what needs to be done to safely operate the facility.
The administrative order was announced by state health officials and Gov. David Ige on Monday evening. The Hawaii Department of Health said that the Navy needed to satisfy the order before seeking state permission to resume operations at its massive underground fuel farm.
A contested case hearing on the order, scheduled for 1 p.m. today, was postponed, however, because the Navy has requested a continuance, according to Kaitlin Arita-Chang, a DOH spokeswoman.
“The Department of Health and Navy are negotiating the terms of a continuance and we will provide an update when one is available,” she said in a statement.
The order was issued in response to petroleum contamination in the Navy’s drinking water system, which serves about 93,000 people. Since Nov. 28, hundreds of military families, and several schools, have complained of a fuel-like smell, abnormal taste or sheen in their tap water. Residents have also reported nausea, diarrhea, skin rashes and headaches, symptoms that health officials say are consistent with exposure to petroleum contamination.
The investigation into the cause of the water contamination is ongoing. But DOH said yesterday that it is looking at fuel releases at the Red Hill facility that occurred on May 6 and Nov. 20. The fuel tanks and pipeline system are in close proximity to the Navy’s Red Hill shaft, which the Navy has confirmed as the source of the contamination.