Navy gets state approval to filter millions of gallons of water a day from fuel-tainted Red Hill shaft

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Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 4:44 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 27, 2022 at 9:41 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Navy received state approval Thursday to begin filtering millions of gallons of water from its now closed Red Hill shaft.

The plan includes disposing treated water into Halawa Stream.

The state permit is a key landmark in efforts to clean up the water contamination crisis and prevent more pollution of the key aquifer.

“There is an urgency to remove contamination from the Navy’s Red Hill Shaft,” said Deputy Director of Environmental Health Kathleen Ho,” in a news release.

“DOH is authorizing the Navy to begin pumping and treating water from the Red Hill Shaft to prevent contamination from spreading throughout the aquifer. DOH staff will conduct oversight and ensure that actions are protective of human health and the environment.”

The Health Department estimates the flushing work could begin in a few days, but added the timeline is dependent on the Navy.

The project comes as home flushing continues in neighborhoods in and around Pearl Harbor to clear fuel contamination from the Navy’s waterline.

The Navy will use a granulated activated carbon filtering system to flush 5 million gallons of water per day from the Red Hill shaft as part of a multi-agency plan.

Earlier this week, Gov. David Ige told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser the Red Hill shaft filtering plan is safe. “There are multiple filters. We believe it would get rid of most of the fuel in the water before we dispose of the water.”

The Health Department said it is requiring the Navy to monitor for contamination going into the stream. If they exceed acceptable limits, the discharge will be stopped.

At state Senate hearing Wednesday on a bill that would ban underground fuel storage tanks, DOH Environmental Health Specialist Matthew Kurano said, “If not like there was pure jet fuel running through the pipe system. It wasn’t like salad dressing where you clearly see your oil and you clearly see your water.”

Former state Water Resource Commissioner Kamanamaikalani Beamer has his doubts.

“This is a sad and terrible day when our officials, State of Hawaii, our community, is forced into having to remove jet fuel and dump it into a stream,” he said.

While Beamer said he has little confidence in the plan itself, he’s trying to have faith in state officials.

“I am hoping, and am putting my best hope and foot forward, in trusting that the Department of Health can properly regulate this,” he said.

Meanwhile, discussions continue on the future of the Red Hill underground fuel storage facility.

At the hearing, , former Pearl Harbor shipyard worker Samuel Mitchell testified the problems at the fuel farm go back decades.

“It’s been a manning problem, it’s been us facility maintenance problem, it’s across the board,” said Mitchell, who was also the machinist union president that represented workers at Red Hill

“I myself had tried to go and fix the problems in the facility back in 1998 and we were refused entrance into the facility even though I had security clearance and was working for the Navy,” he said.

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