EPA says it’s not sure Navy plan to flush fuel-tainted water lines will work

The tainted water crisis at Red Hill has reignited a decades-old debate about land and the state’s leases to the military.
Published: Jan. 21, 2022 at 5:03 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 22, 2022 at 10:39 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Environmental Protection Agency says it’s not sure that the Navy’s plan to flush tainted water from its system will even work.

Critics have worried fuel could leach into pipes and at the Navy’s update Friday, experts seemed to validate those concerns.

The EPA was asked: “How will this flushing clean the pipes? If the pipes are made of plastic is there chance the fuel might leach that contamination might leach into the pipes?”

Karl Banks, an EPA environmental engineer, responded:

“As a civil engineer and water expert with EPA really trying to bring the best available science to these decisions, I cannot definitively say it will work.”

The Navy says its plan now includes system flushing five times along with testing. They’re trying to flush the water as quickly as possible to prevent fuel from leaching into the plastic pipes.

State Rep. Sonny Ganaden says his recent tour of the Red Hill well with other lawmakers left him surprised. Two fuel spills last year from the Red Hill fuel tank system are believed to have contaminated the Navy’s well, and the Navy has said it will comply with a state order to empty the tanks.

“There’s a lot of moving parts in this fairly ancient facility,” he said.

“They didn’t know there was a drain pipe that led from the walk way down directly to the Red Hill well. Because they didn’t ‘know that, the well essentially got a direct injection of fuel.”

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