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BWS chief engineer worries Red Hill fuel contamination could be spreading

Amid calls for water conservation, BWS's chief engineer said he's hearing second-hand that the Navy's fuel contamination could be spreading.
Published: Mar. 29, 2022 at 5:04 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 30, 2022 at 6:29 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Is fuel contamination at Red Hill spreading?

That’s what Ernie Lau, Board of Water Supply chief engineer and manager, is worried about and he said he’s hearing some distressing developments secondhand.

A state Department of Health spokesperson wasn’t aware of any changes.

And the Navy said it would get back to Hawaii News Now on the question.

Lau told HNN that his program manager, Irwin Kawata, attends twice weekly meetings of an Aquifer Recovery Focus Group attended by 80 stakeholders, including the Navy, state Health Department, Board of Water Supply and EPA. He says the revelation came out in the last week or two.

“It looks like its fuel contamination is spreading in areas that it hasn’t spread before and it might have been the result of what happened last year,” said Lau.

He added there have been 72 fuel leaks of 180,000 gallons or more over the years.

He speculated. last year’s fuel releases could have pushed fuel from prior releases into the area.

“With the releases last year, it could have triggered the past releases to start moving that might have been in the area in the bottom of the tanks and above the top of the aquifer,” Lau said.

He doesn’t know how many more monitoring wells could be contaminated, but he’s asking the Navy for the data.

“He’s (Kawata) heard during the meetings, references to a new monitoring well being drilled and they encountered fuel. Maybe only drilling 30 feet down before they hit the aquifer below that they are finding fuel,” said Lau.

“They are finding fuel at higher levels on wells on the Moanalua side of the fuel tank facility, which is kind of concerning,” he added.

Meanwhile, as the summer months near, Lau said mandatory water restrictions are possible since Oahu water usage has been rising since January. Lau has been pleading for water conservation.

“The general trend from January is still an upward trend where normally we would have a lot of rain between January and now,” he said.

Gov. David Ige told HNN the DOE is the biggest state water user and that all agencies need to cut back.

“I’m asking all agencies to redouble efforts to reemphasize again the things that they can take to reduce water usage,” said Ige.

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