Ige considers emergency water order as conflicting statements cloud contamination issue

Experts say an emergency proclamation can help speed up the review process during a crisis, but it also means laws can be side-stepped.
Published: Apr. 7, 2022 at 5:24 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 8, 2022 at 6:05 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Both the Navy and state Health Department have said there’s no indication that the Navy’s fuel contamination at Red Hill is spreading.

But at a meeting last month of the state Commission of Water Resource Management, Navy engineers revealed data shows there is a possibility.

“Groundwater monitoring results post-May 6 suggest that there may be some mobilization of past fuel releases in the subsurface,” said a Navy representative at the meeting.

The Board of Water Supply has shut down the Halawa shaft and two nearby wells indefinitely to prevent the tainted water from spreading to the public system.

It also wants to dig new wells to make up the lost capacity.

Gov. David Ige says an emergency order could speed up the permitting process.

“We are exploring whether an emergency order to help facilitate that would really lead to development of new wells and water sources,” said Ige.

The governor’s chief of staff added an emergency proclamation expires every 60 days so it might not be the right vehicle for a years-long project.

Ernie Lau, chief engineer and manager at Honolulu Board of Water Supply, said potential mandatory water restrictions and a moratorium on new water permits add to the political pressure as the Honolulu rail project tries to build toward Kakaako. He said he’s met with the governor and Honolulu’s mayor on the issue.

“Transit oriented development is real and there’s going to be tremendous pressure and need to develop affordable housing,” said Lau.

Critics are dismayed after hearing the crisis could last three to five years.

“It just reminds of us of this egregious act that the Navy has done to our aquifer. Poisoning the aquifer is not something easy to solve,” said Dr. Kamanamaikalani Beamer, former state water commissioner.

“There’s no business without water. There’s no food. There’s no tourism so all of these sectors are contending and colliding around this crisis,” he added.

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