Thousands reported illness after drinking contaminated water, BWS says

The Honolulu Board of Water Supply said the impact of the fuel contamination is wider than suspected.
Published: Dec. 20, 2021 at 4:46 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 21, 2021 at 7:48 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu Board of Water Supply said the impact of the fuel contamination is wider than suspected.

During hearings on an order to suspend the Navy’s Red Hill fuel tanks, an attorney for the Water Board said the parts of the aquifer below the tanks — which supplies water to the Navy and the public — have been contaminated.

“The aquifer itself is contaminated. This evidence is not disputed. That peril has happened,” said attorney Ella Foley Gannon.

“More than 5,000 people from service member families have reported medical conditions because they drank contaminated water.”

The state Department of Health has reported that it has received more than 400 complaints of gas-like odors from the Navy’s water system.

The Navy is opposing the shutdown of the fuel tanks. It is spending $6 million on 25 industrial-scale water filters to flush out the contamination in its tanks, pipelines and in homes of military and civilian families.

It’s also using larger filters to clean up the Red Hill shaft, which is the source of the contamination of its water system.

“In addition to those units, the Navy has purchased roughly at $13 million a much larger ... GAC (granular activated carbon) units to treat the Red Hill Shaft,” said Craig Jensen, attorney for the Navy.

But the Board of Water Supply is skeptical that the Navy can scrub all of its pipes and waterlines of the fuel because petroleum doesn’t dissolve in water and tends to stick to the pipes.

“It’s going to be challenging I think for for the Navy in trying to remove that,” said Erwin Kawata, program administrator at the BWS.

“Once this petroleum contamination gets released into the environment ... it would be pretty difficult to remove.”

The hearing continues through Monday night. No word on when a decision will be made.

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