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A tunnel inside of the Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility in Hawaii is shown in this undated file photo.
A tunnel inside of the Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility in Hawaii is shown in this undated file photo. (Shannon Haney/U.S. Navy)

HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — The Hawaii Department of Health has fined the U.S. Navy $325,182 for safety violations uncovered last year during an inspection of its Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility near Pearl Harbor.

The Navy failed to maintain adequate leak detection at two underground fuel recovery storage tanks and hadn't performed needed testing of repaired piping, among other safety violations, according to state health officials.

The Navy, which has 20 days to contest the violation order, suggested to the Star-Advertiser that it was caught off guard by the fines. At the time of the inspection "no significant non-compliance issues were noted, " said Navy Region Hawaii spokesman Mike Andrews in an email.

"DOH stated we would have the final report by Jan. 1, 2021," said Andrews. "It has been 12 months since the compliance inspection, and we still have not received the inspection report."

Andrews said that the Navy had received "no prior communication on possible violations " before receiving the notice of violation from the Department of Health on Tuesday.

"The Navy remains committed to maintaining safety in all operations of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility and to timely communication with state and federal regulators, " said Andrews.

The Department of Health's inspection of Red Hill last year, which took place between Sept. 28 and Oct. 9, 2020, is the first since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency strengthened its regulations of underground storage tanks in 2015. The Department of Health subsequently adopted EPA's updates, as well as additional environmental safeguards, in 2018.

"The state's effort to strengthen regulations around inspection and monitoring was critical to identifying these violations and ensuring that underground storage tanks are maintained safely," Kathleen Ho, the deputy director of environmental health for the Department of Health said in a press release. "DOH will continue to enforce all regulations to protect Hawaii residents and our environment."

The Department of Health said that the notice of violation, which was issued a year after the inspection, was issued expeditiously given the size and complexity of the underground fuel storage system.

Red Hill has been subject to intense scrutiny by government regulators and environmentalists in recent years amid mounting concerns that the massive underground fuel farm could contaminate a major source of drinking water for Oahu.

The notice of violation includes five counts:

— $30,000 fine for failing to operate and maintain corrosion protection on metal components of tank and piping that are in contact with the ground.

— $179,982 fine for failing to perform line tightness testing of repaired piping before returning it to service.

— $22,950 fine for failing to perform an annual liquid tightness test on spill prevention equipment to prevent releases to the environment.

— $90,000 for failing to maintain adequate release detection for two double-walled underground storage tanks for recovered fuel.

— $2, 250 for failing to perform an adequate, visual inspection of hydrant pits.

(c)2021 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

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