The U.S. Navy is already failing to comply with the state emergency order the Hawaii Department of Health issued following the fuel contamination of the military’s water source, DOH said in a press release on Monday evening.

The order issued on Dec. 6 says the Navy needs to hire a qualified, DOH-approved independent contractor who will submit a “workplan and implementation schedule” to assess the Red Hill fuel facility’s operations and safely remove the fuel from it.

U.S. Navy caption: Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro receives a brief on well operation and recovery initiatives from Capt. Bert Hornyak, commanding officer, Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center Pearl Harbor, during a tour of the Red Hill Well in Aiea, Hawaii.
Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro said last year he would view a state demand to drain the Red Hill facility as a request, not an order. U.S. Navy/2022

The Navy informed DOH on Jan. 11 that it had selected Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Inc., or SGH, as its third-party contractor, according to DOH. The health department immediately requested more information about the company and its independence and received the information on Jan. 14 and Feb. 2, DOH said.

“After evaluating the contract and related documents, DOH found SGH is not currently in a position to act independently,” DOH said. “As a result, the Navy is in violation of the Emergency Order.”

However, according to the timeline submitted by SGH and the Navy, work has already started, DOH said.

“The Navy is proceeding at its own risk and without DOH approval,” DOH said.

DOH said it is concerned that the proposed evaluation is based solely on information provided by the Navy and that the plan doesn’t require DOH to be involved in discussions or site visits to ensure that its concerns are understood and adequately addressed.

The department is also concerned about the Navy’s ability to “singularly influence the work product,” the press release states.

“This disaster is about more than just engineering — it’s about trust,” Deputy Director of Environmental Health Kathleen Ho said in a statement.

“It is critical that the work to defuel Red Hill is done safely and that the third-party contractor hired to oversee that work will operate in the interests of the people and environment of Hawaiʻi. Based on the contract, we have serious concerns about SGH’s work being done independently.”

According to DOH, it appears that the documents the Navy submitted to the department weren’t even prepared in response to the emergency order but rather a Secretary of the Navy directive for an assessment.

In a statement, Rear Adm. Brown, the Navy’s chief of information, said the Navy will “work cooperatively with DOH to address its recent comments so that the Red Hill assessment effort can proceed.”

“The Navy is focused on ensuring the safety and health of those impacted from the November 2021 contamination,” he said. “The Navy continues to take proactive measures that will position it to make informed and environmentally-protective longer-term decisions.”

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