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For Immediate Release: Jun 05, 2003
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

SHARP RISE IN POLLUTION AND SAFETY VIOLATIONS AT HAWAII'S HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE

Air Force to Lay Off Compliance Units Despite Audit Finding


WASHINGTON, DC--An internal U.S. Air Force evaluation uncovered a significant increase in serious pollution, safety and health violations at Hawaii's Hickam Air Force Base, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The April 2003 evaluation identified major breaches in air quality, hazardous waste and water pollution standards, including a recent fish kill.

The number and severity of violations had risen sharply since a similar evaluation in 1999, with safety and health infractions up by almost half and pollution offenses up by approximately one sixth. The evaluation notes that these numbers do not count several major violations that were remedied on the spot.

Today PEER also released a 2002 audit attributing violations to inadequate staffing levels for environmental compliance that concluded

"Even supplemented by students, contractors and overhires, many regulatory requirements are not sufficiently covered, and the Wing will continue to be at risk for Notices of Violation, hefty fines, and bad press."

Despite these audit findings of insufficient staff and projected budget hikes in coming fiscal years, the Air Force is proposing to cut dozens more civilian jobs at Hickam AFB as part of a national effort to reduce civilian staffing.

"The Air Force continues to treat pollution and safety compliance as a dispensable afterthought," stated PEER General Counsel Dan Meyer, a former naval gunnery officer who noted that many of the violations had been cited in prior reviews. "Repeat failed inspections and critical audits are ignored, as the Air Force proceeds to cut back on the very areas where it needs to beef up."

Besides the fish kill in Manuwai Canal, the evaluation also found

Outdated fuel spill, prevention, control and response plans;

Improper disposal of hazardous wastes; and

Inadequate ventilation for workers in enclosed spaces.