‘Are they trying to hide something?’: BWS demands more data from Navy

But the Navy and Health Department said there’s no evidence of fuel spreading.
The Navy is working to install 18 additional monitor wells to test for contamination.
Published: Apr. 4, 2022 at 3:58 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 4, 2022 at 5:51 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Board of Water Supply is demanding more detail and transparency about ongoing efforts to determine whether fuel from Red Hill facility is spreading.

BWS Chief Engineer and Manager Ernie Lau says the Navy and state Health Department need to come forward with what they know. The call comes after Lau’s program administrator heard at a recent meeting that monitor wells on the east side of the facility were starting to detect new fuel.

“To me, that is concerning that the fuel might be spreading,” said Lau.

Both the Navy and state Health Department disagree.

“The last report was received on March 28 and posted on March 29. The data continues to show periodic detections in and around the Red Hill facility, but does not indicate contamination is spreading at this time,” said DOH spokesperson Katie Arita-Chang.

In response, the Navy told Hawaii News Now it has 21 groundwater monitoring wells around the Red Hill bulk underground storage facility that it has been testing weekly since May 6.

That’s when there was a significant fuel leak but no known water contamination.

The Navy’s tainted water crisis started in November, following a separate spill.

The Navy told HNN since last May, four wells have shown increased concentrations of Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons above the state Department of Health’s environmental action level.

It says in five other wells, there have been intermittent findings of TPH above DOH’s action level that “do not present a clear pattern to infer contamination movement.”

“At this point in time, the data is insufficient to determine movement,” said William M. Couch, deputy director of public affairs Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command.

Lau is demanding more data from the Navy and its regulators, the state and EPA.

“It raises questions in my mind are they trying to hide something here and why don’t they just share the information,” said Lau.

Meanwhile, Lau says he’s meeting with the EPA on Tuesday.

“It has the appearance that they’re trying to hide something because they’re not sharing willingly,” said Lau, adding, “I have to be absolutely sure there’s no migration underground in the aquifer of fuel contamination from the Red Hill facility to those wells.”

The Navy is working to install 18 additional monitor wells to test for contamination.

Even though the military has pledged to shut down Red Hill and empty its fuel tanks, environmental groups says years of spills are threatening Oahu’s aquifer.

“In the details, people can quibble about whether this monitoring data what it shows exactly, but what we know is that we’ve already had one release that contaminated our water supply,” said David Henkin, Earthjustice attorney.

“The Red Hill tanks are posing an existential threat to our water supply,” he added.

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