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Board of Water Supply shuts 2 wells as precaution after Navy discloses diesel fuel in water from another shaft

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Honolulu Board of Water Supply Manager and Chief Engineer Ernest Lau speaks at a news conference on Friday when the board announced it had shut down its Halawa shaft due to the fuel contamination of the nearby Navy water system. Today, BWS announced shutting its Halawa and Aiea wells after additional Navy contamination was disclosed. BWS officials say the shutting of their Halawa shaft and the two wells have been done as a “precaution.”

    CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Honolulu Board of Water Supply Manager and Chief Engineer Ernest Lau speaks at a news conference on Friday when the board announced it had shut down its Halawa shaft due to the fuel contamination of the nearby Navy water system. Today, BWS announced shutting its Halawa and Aiea wells after additional Navy contamination was disclosed. BWS officials say the shutting of their Halawa shaft and the two wells have been done as a “precaution.”

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro speaks at the 80th Pearl Harbor Anniversary ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on Tuesday.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro speaks at the 80th Pearl Harbor Anniversary ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on Tuesday.

UPDATE: 9:13 p.m.

The Honolulu Board of Water Supply has shut down two wells after being informed this afternoon that the Navy has detected diesel fuel at levels more than double the state Department of Health’s limits for drinking water at its Aiea Halawa shaft.

“Immediately after being alerted, the BWS took precautionary measures and shut down their Aiea Well and Halawa Well,” the BWS said in a news release tonight. On Thursday, BWS shut down one of their primary sources, Halawa Shaft after being informed of contamination at the Navyʻs Red Hill Shaft.

“This situation is not acceptable and our system to our residents is now being put under more stress,” said BWS Manager and Chief Engineer Ernest Lau. “I am deeply troubled and we have requested all pumpage and test data from the Department of Health on the Red Hill Shaft and the Aiea-Halawa Shaft. We need to have this data in order to make solid and informed decisions regarding our system so we can continue to service our customers.”

BWS said it took samples earlier this week from the Aiea Well and Halawa Well and sent them to a mainland test lab. Results are expected late next week.

Test results for the Halawa Shaft are still on track to be available to the public end of this week, officials said.

“The BWS will post more information shortly. For more information, please call (808) 748-5041 or send an email to contactus@hbws.org,” the news release said.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE

Hawaii officials say diesel fuel at levels more than double the state Department of Health’s limits for drinking water were reported by the Navy today in water samples collected at its Aiea Halawa shaft.

The Navy told DOH officials today that it shut the Aiea Halawa shaft Friday.

The shaft is the second to be shutdown by the Navy since military and non-military water users in the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam area reported smelling a strong odor of fuel from their tap water, and many reported falling ill.

The Navy quietly shut down the Red Hill shaft on Nov. 28 as military families began lodging those complaints; Gov. David Ige said this week that he was not informed of the Red Hill shaft closure until Sunday, a week later.

RELATED STORY: Navy says it will contest state’s order demanding suspension of Red Hill fuel operations

The Navy operates 20 massive, World War II-era underground fuel storage tanks in Red Hill. The tanks sit about 100 feet above an aquifer system that provides about 40% of the water for urban Honolulu.

The Health Department said in a news release this evening that the contaminated sample from the Aiea Halawa Shaft was drawn on Sunday.

“The level of this contaminant poses a public health threat, and is considered unsafe to drink,” said Kathleen Ho, the departmen’t deputy director for environmental health. “This news is concerning — especially as the cause of the petroleum release into the Navy’s water system remains unknown. We will continue to take all possible action to protect public health and the environment.”

A level of 920 parts per billion of total petroleum hydrocarbons diesel range organics was reported by the Navy, according to the release. The department’s Environmental Action Level for TPH-d is 400 parts per billion. That is the threshold below which no human health effects are expected, according to DOH.

The Navy’s Aiea Halawa Shaft and the Honolulu Board of Water Supply’s Halawa Shaft are different water systems, officials said.

Saying it was a precautionary measure, Board of Water Supply officials on Friday announced that they closed its Halawa Shaft, which is about 1.5 miles northeast of the Navy’s Aiea Halawa shaft.

The Navy’s Aiea Halawa Shaft is one of three ground water sources that provide drinking water to an estimated 90,000 users of the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam water system.

State health officials said they will collect samples from the Aiea Halawa shaft Thursday.

Health officials recommend all Navy water system users avoid using the water for drinking, cooking, or oral hygiene, including consumption by pets. Navy water system users who detect a fuel-like odor from their water should also avoid using the water for bathing, dish-washing or laundry, the department said.

“This recommendation applies to users of the Navy’s Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam water system, including the Aliamanu Military Reservation, Red Hill and Nimitz Elementary Schools and military housing,” health officials added.

On Monday, Gov. David Ige issued an emergency proclamation ordering the Navy to suspend fuel storage operations at Red Hill, clean up contaminated drinking water at its Red Hill shaft, develop a plan to drain the fuel from its 20 underground tanks,and figure out what needs to be done to safely operate the facility and pipeline operations. The Navy has indicated it will contest the order.

Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, who was in Hawaii this week for the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, earlier today said he is working to establish a Federal Inter-agency Working Group to assist with Navy efforts to care for personnel and their families.

The working group will remedy root causes of the incident, implement installation improvements, and to take all necessary actions to ensure safe drinking water and safe operation of the Red Hill facility, according to Navy officials.

“The safety, health and well-being of our service members, civilians, contractors, their families and our communities here in Oahu is of the utmost importance to me,” Del Toro said in a news release. “This is not acceptable and the Department of the Navy will take every action to identify and remedy this issue. We will continue to coordinate with federal, state and local entities to restore safe drinking water to the community.”

Navy officials have said they have yet to identify how the petroleum products have contaminated the two wells.

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Click here for more stories about the Red Hill water crisis.

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