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EPA: Pearl Harbor water plant “exceeds discharge limits” under Clean Water Act

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Corroded center baffle on secondary clarifier. Photo by K. Kirkeby.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a Federal Facility Compliance Agreement (FFCA) with the US Navy to complete major upgrades to the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Wastewater Treatment Plant today. The plant treats domestic and industrial wastewater from the Navy’s Pearl Harbor facilities and has exceeded its discharge limits to the Pacific Ocean under the Clean Water Act.

“The Navy’s lack of proper operation and maintenance of the treatment plant has led to excessive toxic pollution discharges into Pearl Harbor and unacceptable worker safety risks,” said Amy Miller, EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Director of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “EPA is pleased with the Navy’s commitment to improving wastewater infrastructure and protection of coastal waters.”

The plant is owned and operated by the US Navy and provides service for up to 40,000 people. EPA has found that the plant has exceeded its discharge limits under the Clean Water Act for cadmium, zinc, oil and grease, pH, and total effluent toxicity. Additionally, the plant has had numerous operation and maintenance violations, including algae growth, warped and disconnected parts, cracked concrete tanks, and severely corroded equipment.


In October 2019, the US Navy found structural defects from an excessively corroded and thinned concrete floor in the outflow pump station. The station is a critical component of the plant that requires regular maintenance. Failure of the pump station could result in uncontrolled discharges of effluent and could damage treatment systems, as well as compromise worker safety.

Under today’s agreement with EPA, the US Navy must replace, repair, or refurbish the plant’s three primary clarifiers, five of the six secondary clarifiers, and the effluent pump station by December 31, 2024. In addition, the US Navy must develop a plan to prevent and respond to potential infrastructure failures at the plant. This work will allow the plant to come into and remain in full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations related to the discharge of treated wastewater into the ocean.

This settlement furthers EPA’s National Compliance Initiative to reduce the number of US facilities that are insignificant non-compliance, and to improve surface water quality by ensuring dischargers comply with permit requirements.


For more information on this initiative, please visit


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