Hawaiian Group Wai Ola Alliance Sues U.S. Navy Over Unlawful Pollutant Releases at Red Hill

Hawaii conservation organization, Wai Ola Alliance, and several of its individual members filed suit on Tuesday in the District of Hawaii against The United States Department of the Navy alleging that the defendant violated the Clean Water Act when it continually released petroleum products from its facility without an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) permit.

According to the complaint, the Clean Water Act prohibits the un-permitted discharge of pollutants to United States waters. Any pollutant discharge requires permit authorization from the EPA. The defendant has allegedly been discharging largely point source and petroleum-based pollutants without a permit.

The Wai Ola Alliance is described in the complaint as a “community-based organization composed of environmentally – and culturally – focused individuals and organizations dedicated to protecting the waters of Hawaii from the effects of past and ongoing discharges of petroleum pollutants.”

The complaint asserts that as a result of the defendant’s misconduct, members of the Alliance have been and will continue to be adversely affected and experience irreparable harm.

The defendant allegedly stores petroleum products, including fuel oil and jet propellent fuel, at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility. Each of the products fall under the Clean Water Act’s definition of pollutants. Some of the facility’s pipelines are underwater, and the concrete reinforcement does not provide fluid containment, according to the complaint. The plaintiffs explain that this leads to pollution in nearby waters, including Pu`uloa waters. The Pu`uloa waters have reportedly been “degraded by decades of intense use and misuse by the U.S. military,” despite their spiritual and political meaning to Hawaii natives.

Over the time of the facility’s operation, hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil have been leaked. The complaint contends that the facility’s history of releases indicates that the Navy does not have the ability to control the facility properly, meaning that oil leaks will be “ongoing and continuous” absent any legal action.

The complaint cites violations of the Clean Water Act.

The plaintiffs seek a declaration that the defendant is in violation of the Act, an injunction preventing further discharges without any authorization, an order requiring the defendant to take measures to prevent future discharges, civil penalties, litigation fees, and any other relief deemed appropriate by the court.

The plaintiff is represented by Sycamore Law, Inc.