BWS: Water conservation measures could slow completion of new housing

The Department of Defense says it will appeal the state’s emergency order to empty the Red Hill underground fuel storage tanks.
Published: Jan. 31, 2022 at 5:51 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 31, 2022 at 5:57 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Water restrictions for Oahu this summer brought on by the ongoing fuel contamination crisis are still possible, and the measures could even impact new housing projects.

That was the warning from Honolulu Board of Water Supply Chief Engineer and Manager Ernie Lau on Monday at a legislative briefing that included Navy officials and the state Department of Health.

“The issue of moratorium (on new water users) it is still being evaluated,” Lau added.

“How (many) additional new customers can we add onto the system without the system running into frequent problems especially during the summer?”

State Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole said stopping or delaying projects because of water meters not being issued will be a major hit to affordable housing.

“That is a huge, huge problem for the island of Oahu and then for the rest of the state when it comes to housing,” Keohokalole said.

Officials say conservation could be needed because three Board of Water SUpply wells were taken off-line last year to prevent them from sucking in contaminated water from the Navy wells.

The impacted wells account for 20% of civilian drinking water and other Board of Water Supply wells have been picking up the load.

But it’s possible the summer demand could push that load to dangerous levels.

Keohokalole hopes to have a timeline for the cleanup and restoration of the Navy wells soon.

“It’s not clear at this point how bad the contamination is,” he said.

Over the weekend, the Navy started scrubbing millions of gallons a day from the contaminated Red Hill shaft using a carbon filtering system. The cleaned water is then released into Halawa Stream.

Navy officials say it’s safe for the environment but not safe to drink.

The Navy said at the briefing that they have flushed about 80% of the impacted homes, but thousands of residents remain in hotels because they’re unable to use the water.

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