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U.S. Rep. Ed Case says confidence in Navy compromised by water contamination

USS Jefferson City (SSN 759) departs Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. (U.S. Navy photo by Amanda R. Gray)

The Navy’s credibility is compromised and outside agencies must collaborate to investigate how petroleum contaminated the water system serving Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and surrounding areas, U.S. Rep. Ed Case said Sunday.

Case met with military and local leaders Saturday to discuss the water crisis. He visited the Army’s Aliamanu Military Reservation and spoke with residents at the Task Force Ohana emergency management center.

Case also talked with families and local residents at the Navy’s Halsey Terrace community and personnel managing the U.S. Department of Defense’s response efforts.

Speaking to reporters at the post office on Merchant Street Sunday, Case said the families and communities hurt by the loss of clean water are the first priority.

“They have become sick, their pets have died, they have become dislocated, they have questions …they have needs and they have long term concerns, ” said Case.

He called for a broader range of outside evaluation and expertise to monitor the Navy’s handling of fuel storage and pipeline operations. An investigation by the Navy’s Inspector General is a start, but “we may want to go further than that and have independent evaluations.”

The notion that the Navy will investigate and solve the problems alone is “unacceptable, ” he said.

Cooperation between the Navy, the state Department of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must improve, immediately.

“The navy has not been forthcoming, immediately forthcoming, with test results or other information requested by DOH and EPA, ” said Case. “That is a critical failing that we cannot accept anymore.”

He called for a “far different construct ” of water quality testing, how often it is done, what kind of tests are administered and that the results be made public immediately.

Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, speaking Sunday at a town hall at the Hokulani Community Center, pledged greater transparency through the recovery process. Going forward, all water quality test results would be made public by the Navy, he said.

Case acknowledged the national security value of the Red Hill facility but repeated the Hawaii Congressional delegation’s belief that an “organizational crisis ” plagues the Navy’s management of the tank farm.

DOD has not fought for the funding necessary to properly manage and secure the WWII era facility, despite previous efforts by Hawaii’s delegation, said Case. Secondary containment of tanks and ensuring the integrity of the pipelines that funnel the fuel to piers at Pearl Harbor should be prioritized, he said.

“That (the Navy’s handling of Red Hill ) has not inspired public confidence, ” he said. “We all know that Red Hill is in fact critical to our national security …but if the calculation of preserving a national security asset presents unacceptable risk to us, to our drinking water, to our lives, that’s not a risk that I or anybody else is willing, or should be asked, to accept, ” said Case.

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