Honolulu shuts down largest water source in Oahu due to contamination

Honolulu’s Board of Water Supply (BWS) shut down the Halawa Shaft, Oahu’s largest water source, on Thursday after the Navy said it found “a likely source of the contamination,” the Navy said in a virtual town hall meeting.

Top US military officials — including Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro — were in Hawaii Sunday to address the community. The deputy commander of the US Pacific Fleet. Rear Adm. Blake Converse, confirmed a petroleum leak is the cause of the latest breach. “The situation we’re in today, it’s completely and totally unacceptable,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday added.

The military has offered all service members and civilian employees living near the base the opportunity to get alternative housing, and Converse said they are now covering the cost of hotel rooms for more than 700 people.

Converse did not have a timeline for getting drinkable water back to the affected homes. “It will involve a series of flushes of not just the water distribution main, but of every home,” he explained.

The Navy isolated the Red Hill well last Sunday and sent samples out for testing Monday, it said. “The results of the Red Hill sample showed petroleum hydrocarbons roughly four to ten times below the Hawaii Department of Health Environmental Action Level (EAL). The Navy had a separate test that confirmed vapors, which is another indication of petroleum hydrocarbons,” it said in a statement.

“The Navy is developing a plan to restore the potable water system to EPA standards, identify how this contaminant got in the well, and fix the well,” the statement continued.

On Tuesday, when BWS heard about the shutdown of the well, it reduced pumping capacity by 50%, it said in a news release. “We are deeply concerned that we were not notified immediately by the Navy regarding the shutdown of their Red Hill water source,” BWS Manager and Chief Engineer Ernest Lau said in a statement, adding that the Halawa shaft was shut down in an “abundance of caution.”

“We have data that shows when they stop pumping at Red Hill, water starts moving in the direction of our Halawa Shaft due to our pumping,” Lau said.




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