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Hawaii hearing officer says Navy should comply with state’s emergency order on Red Hill

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The Navy’s Red Hill fuel facility is a “ticking time bomb” that poses an imminent peril to human health and safety and the environment, according to a state hearing officer who on Monday issued a proposed order that the Navy comply with the Hawaii Department of Health’s emergency order that it drain its fuel tanks and assess the safety of continued operations.

David Day, who also serves as a state deputy attorney general, issued his findings following a marathon hearing last week in which the Navy contested DOH’s Dec. 6 emergency order. Navy officials argued that their robust response to the current fuel contamination in its drinking water system negates any imminent risk that its Red Hill fuel farm poses and therefore the state lacked statutory authority to force it to comply with its order.

But Day wasn’t persuaded.

“The weight of the evidence establishes that the Red Hill Facility, as currently situated, is a metaphorical ticking timebomb located 100 feet above the most important aquifer on Hawaii’s most populous island,” wrote Day in his proposed decision and order. “The Red Hill Facility has already damaged human health and the environment and, as currently situated, inevitably threatens to do so into the future. The Navy lacks the ability to control the substantial risks associated with the Red Hill Facility, as currently situated.”

In addition to defueling the Red Hill tanks, the emergency order also requires the Navy to suspend operations at its Red Hill facility, which it has currently done, and install a drinking water treatment system at its Red Hill shaft, among other requirements, before seeking state permission to resume operations.

“We are aware of the proposed decision and have no further statement at this time,” said Rear Admiral Charlie Brown, U.S. Navy Chief of Information, in a statement.

It is ultimately up to DOH Deputy Director Marian Tsuji to make a final determination in the case.

The Navy has until Wednesday to object to Day’s recommendation. DOH said in a statement that any objections to the recommended order will be considered by Tsuji prior to her making a final decision. Tsuji has up to 30 days from today, or 30 days from the filing of objections, to render a final decision, according to DOH.

Hawaii hearing officer proposed decision and order on Red Hill by Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Scribd

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