The state Department of Health issued a citation to Marine Corps Base Hawaii for unauthorized discharge of sewage from its Kaneohe Bay water reclamation facility. The DOH slapped the base with a $240,250.00 penalty and ordered it to make improvements to the facility.
For its part, the Marine Corps submitted a request to the state for a disputed case hearing.
“The Marine Corps‘ actions demonstrate a disregard for the protection of our precious ocean waters,” DOH Deputy Director of Environmental Health Kathleen Ho said in a press release late Wednesday. “We will continue to hold offenders accountable and protect public health and the environment.”
In a press release this morning, the Marine Corps acknowledged receiving the notice of violation and order from the DOH on May 6.
“MCBH takes this NOVO and the shortcomings that led to it very seriously,” the Marine Corps press release said. “Environmental stewardship is essential to our relationship with the local community.”
The Marine Corps also said the facility is “currently operating efficiently and treated sewage is being discharged within all permit limits.”
The Marine Corps has a permit to discharge treated sewage into the ocean, which is usually combined with treated water from the Kailua Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant. But the DOH said the Marine Corps discharged water containing enterococci contamination levels above permit limits “on numerous occasions” between August 2020 and February 2022. The DOH also accused the Marine Corps of failing to notify the DOH of the overruns in a timely manner.
In addition to the fine, the DOH orders the Marine Corps to “take corrective action to modernize its sewage treatment system.”
In October, the facility reported an accidental discharge of treated wastewater into the ocean, with levels of enterococci exceeding the permit limit. In this case, the Marine Corps said the discharge occurred during an improvement project to upgrade the sewage treatment facility which it says has since been completed.
In February, the Marine Corps reported an estimated enterococci count of 70,000 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters, exceeding the maximum daily release limit of 57,850 CFU. The Marine Corps attributed it to “ongoing maintenance activities” contributing to higher levels of bacteria, but did not give details.
“MCBH is working to improve operations and monitoring, to upgrade our (water treatment facility) to eliminate the recurrence of these issues, and to treat wastewater more efficiently and implement additions to the facility that will reduce the facility’s overall water consumption,” the Marine Corps said in its press release. “Prior to a hearing, MCBH is continuing discussions with the DOH to foster mutual understanding between our organizations regarding the violations and to develop an executable plan that will ensure that future violations do not occur.”