HONOLULU (KHON2) — Attorneys exchanged more arguments on the second day of the virtual evidentiary hearing, concerning Governor David Ige’s emergency order, which demands the U.S. Navy to suspend all activity at Red Hill.
According to DOH, it is issuing the order to the Navy to take measures to treat contaminated drinking water at the Red Hill shaft and safely remove fuel from the 20 underground storage tanks at Red Hill.
The Navy disputes the emergency order, lawyers said the fuel found in the potable water this December does not rise to the actions ordered by the state.
The first hearing was held on Monday through Zoom and began with attorneys from the U.S. Navy and DOH cross-examining a spokesperson from DOH on the Navy’s contaminated water tanks and inspection schedules at Red Hill. The hearing officer heard from witnesses for nearly 12 hours.
So far, DOH confirmed eight Navy fuel tanks have not been inspected for over 20 years — one over 38 years.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Navy’s lawyer Craig Jensen gave his opening argument and said the water contamination source at Red Hill was isolated, people were protected and cleanup is ongoing. Jensen said the removal of the fuel from all 20 tanks is not necessary at this time.
The Navy is not saying the contamination at Red Hill is not significant — it was. The Navy is very sorry that it happened to that many people,” Jensen said. “What we are saying is that our efforts to address this issue have mitigated the immediate impacts and kept any further significant impacts from happening. No one is at actual risk of harm today and there’s not justification for any provision of this order.”
When addressing the emergency order and directives, Jensen said there are disagreements in analysis and disagreements in experts.
The order list what they (DOH) allege are the five releases. All the releases are not relevant,” Jensen said. “We will do an analysis, and how the analysis comes out we will do what we need to do to fix it — we are working chronologically as we should. An appropriate order should address the pipes, not the tanks.”
David Henkin with Sierra Club of Hawai’i said the DOH should stick to their guns and hold the Navy accountable.
Sierra Club is shocked at the Navy trying to lay the blame for its own leaks and spills that have poisoned our water supply. Trying to lay that on the DOH,” said Henkin. “We intervened in this case because we were concerned with DOH might not stick to its guns as far as implementing the emergency order. We have never suggested the responsibility for keeping fuel in the tanks — fuel in the pipes lies sparely on the Navy.”
To make it clear, Henkin addressed the Navy and said on “Nov. 20 when 14,000 gallons of mixed fuel and water entered the drinking water system of the Navy, poisoning the well literally for nearly 100,000 military service members and their families — the evidence we heard admitted it was a crisis. There is no question that an emergency exists.”
Board of Water Supply’s (BWS) attorney Ella Foley Gannon echoed Henkin and talked about her client.
The Board has spent a huge source of its resource to protect the people of Hawai’i. Sometime in the future, there is going to be a leak, it’s going to get out and it’s going to get into the water. We have to stop it now,” Gannon said.
Gannon said BWS is contesting the Navy’s ability to maintain its water tank because the Navy doesn’t have the capability to run the water tanks in good order. She said it’s because the tanks are over 80 years old.
When we are talking about looking at an imminent future threat, I don’t think there couldn’t be a clearer case. We are lucky we didn’t have a larger release yet,” she added. “If you don’t act — what could happen is we are going to have one of those major releases and we can’t clean it up. That is not a risk we can afford to take.”
Department of Health’s Deputy Attorney General Wade Hargrove III said we heard about the present releases, but do we really know these are the only ones?
The Navy is chasing that genie,” Hargrove III said. “Wishing that money was spent on preventive measures. Flushing the water out — dumping that water all over Pearl Harbor.”
In regards to removing the fuel from Navy tanks at Red Hill, Hargrove III said “We shouldn’t have to wait until the harm occurs.” He believes action should be taken now and that the Navy believes it should be solved over time.
The hearing officer gave the legal teams a Thursday 5 p.m. deadline to submit final documents. A decision is expected by the early next week.