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Board of Water Supply questions source of fuel found in water sample from Navy’s Halawa shaft

A day after reporting the highest level of diesel fuel found in more than 100 samples of Navy water, officials said the pollutants were from an off-service section of the Navy’s distribution system and does not indicate contamination of their Aiea Halawa Well.

The Navy’s announcement prompted a Honolulu Board of Water Supply news conference where officials questioned the Navy’s results and urged more testing.

Ernest Lau, BWS’ Manager and Chief Engineer said the Navy informed them Wednesday that a level of 920 parts per billion of total petroleum hydrocarbons diesel range organics, or TPH-d, was found in the Halawa water shaft. The DOH Environmental Action Level for TPH-d is 400 parts per billion. That is the threshold below which no human health effects are expected.

“I got a call a couple hours later, from the same person in the Navy, basically trying to downplay the test result was not indicative of what’s in the aquifer. So my question to that individual was, ‘wasn’t the water in that pipe you took the sample from coming out of that shaft? If it’s not coming out of the shaft where did the diesel come from?’” said Lau.

He urged the Navy and Hawaii Department of Health to do more testing to determine the source of the fuel.

In a news release this morning, the Navy said they are working with DOH to do more testing of the off-service section of the distribution near the Navy’s Aiea Halawa well that showed diesel fuel at levels more than double the state DOH’s limits for drinking water.

“This sample did not come directly from the Navy’s Aiea-Halawa Well and the Navy does not believe it indicates contamination of the Navy’s Aiea Halawa Well. The Halawa well has not been used since Dec. 3, and a sample from that day, before the well was off service, indicated that the water was safe,” according to the Navy news release.

The Navy received preliminary verbal results of the elevated diesel levels on Wednesday and notified the DOH, the Department of Land and Natural Resources, the U.S. Geological Survey and the BWS.

“After reviewing the detailed results from the independent laboratory conducting the testing, the Navy determined that the sample was not from the Halawa well but from an off-service section of the water distribution system. Of the 100 samples tested by the Navy by a third party private contractor on the mainland from their distribution system, 84 have come back and none from the ‘on-service’ distribution system showed petroleum products at or near U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or DOH limits,” according to the release.

The Board of Water Supply reviewed the Navy media release and requested “further clarification” from the Navy on the sample that was tested and where it came from if not from the Navy’s Aiea-Halawa Shaft.

“Since both the Navy’s Red Hill Shaft and Aiea Halawa Shaft are shut down, where did water come from? We would like the Navy to clarify. The BWS supports the DOH working with the Navy to collect and test additional samples to verify the initial finding as indicated in the release,” said Erwin Kawata, Program Administrator for BWS Water Quality Division in a statement to the Star-Advertiser. “If a sample is contaminated one day but comes back clean the next, additional samples should be collected to verify the difference. Usually such changes in a water system do not occur under normal operating conditions. However if a change occurred where a water source was shut down and replaced with another, then it is conceivably possible to see a detection one day and not the next.”

The BWS has no jurisdiction in this matter because the water system is owned and operated by the Navy, Kawata said.

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