Honolulu utility finds chemical in Red Hill monitoring well


HONOLULU (TBEN) – The Honolulu Board of Water Supply said on Thursday it detected a small amount of a chemical naturally occurring in coal, crude oil and gasoline in a monitoring well near a Navy fuel storage facility that opened last year. jet fuel spilled.

The utility said in a press release it had found “very low levels” of the chemical, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. It said it met with the Department of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to share its data, and both agencies agree that these low levels are not expected to cause health effects. Still, they agreed the situation needs attention and continued monitoring, the utility said.

The Board of Water Supply said the discovery increases its concern that fuel spilled from the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility is migrating through the aquifer beneath the tank farm.

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The utility has three wells that tap the aquifer to provide drinking water to more than 400,000 residents of Oahu.

It shut down those wells in December when it discovered fuel had spilled from the tank farm into a Navy drinking water well that supplied water to 93,000 people at and near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The leak left some 6,000 Navy water users with nausea, headaches and other symptoms.

The utility is concerned that fuel could travel through the porous volcanic rock of the navy’s aquifer area to its own wells, which could poison Honolulu’s own water supply. It has called on the Navy to quickly remove fuel from the tanks to reduce the threat of further leaks.

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The Board of Water Supply said it found the chemical in water samples taken from a well about 1,500 feet (457 meters) southeast of the Red Hill facility. It also found total petroleum hydrocarbons in the same samples.

Ernie Lau, the chief engineer for the Board of Water Supply, called the detections “warnings we can’t ignore.”

“Our precious and irreplaceable water resources are at risk of further contamination every day, the fuel remains in the Red Hill tanks,” he said in a statement. “We are urging the Navy to urgently refuel and close the Red Hill facility — Ola I Ka Wai,” he said, using the Hawaiian phrase meaning ‘water is life.’

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The military approved an order from the state of Hawaii in April to empty the tanks and close the World War II tank farm. But it says December 2024 is the earliest it can achieve this.

A Navy investigation released last month said a succession of errors from May to November last year caused 75,700 gallons of fuel to spill into the drinking water well. It accused mismanagement and human error for the episode.

The leak was the most recent of a series of Red Hill fuel leaks dating back to 2014.


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