After the U.S. Marine Corps was found to be polluting Oahu’s coastal waters with stormwater discharges, the military and Environmental Protection Agency have entered into an agreement to address “significant deficiencies” in the base’s stormwater program, the EPA announced on Thursday.

Aerial view of Kaneohe Marine Corps Base, Kaneohe Bay and Kailua
The Marine Corps base in Kaneohe has been cited for its poor stormwater management. Christina Jedra/Civil Beat 2022

A recently signed Federal Facility Compliance Agreement will help protect Kaneohe Bay, Kailua Bay and the Nu‘upia Pond, the agency said in a press release.

“This agreement marks a major milestone in protecting Hawaii’s water quality from damage caused by military stormwater discharges,” EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman said in a statement.

Runoff is the result of stormwater picking up pollutants including trash, chemicals, oil and dirt that can have a detrimental effect on rivers, streams, lakes and the ocean. Permitting through the Hawaii Department of Health is intended to prevent runoff from harming local waterways, the EPA said.

DOH and the EPA audited the Marine Corps base’s compliance with its state permit in 2020 and found it exceeded discharged limits and failed to share all the data required under its permit.

“The lack of required data and numerous effluent exceedances demonstrated that the Marine Corps was failing to carry out the (permit)-required systems and training to detect unauthorized discharges from its stormwater system,” the EPA said.

Under the new agreement, the Marine Corps will be required to train its staff, boost its stormwater management and improve detection and elimination of other wastewater entering its stormwater system, among other efforts.

Earlier this year, the Marine Corps was fined $240,250 by DOH after numerous discharges of fecal bacteria into Kaneohe Bay.

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