State shows ‘disturbing’ fuel contamination plume maps from Red Hill spills

DOH says the contamination is spreading toward the West
Published: May. 13, 2022 at 5:34 PM HST|Updated: May. 13, 2022 at 6:02 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Six months after the Navy’s tainted water crisis went public, the state has released new maps showing the underground movement of the contamination.

For the first time, the public is seeing Department of Health maps of the plume of petroleum contamination based on Navy data. It shows the plume before last year’s fuel spills, during the height of the last year’s spill and what it looks like today.

“I was shocked, speechless just to see the extent of the contamination and how severe it was was really quite startling,” said Marti Townsend, former director of the Sierra Club of Hawaii.

“The contamination in the water supply existed before November 2021, it endures now and while the intensity has decreased, it’s clear that the plume is spreading towards the west,” she added.

DOH maps show contamination plume.
DOH maps show contamination plume.(Department of Health)

During a Fuel Tank Advisory Committee convened by the state Department of Health, Board of Water Supply Manager and Chief Engineer Ernie Lau said he found the maps “disturbing and concerning.”

“Generally, what I see from those is that there appears to be a westerly movement of the contaminant plume looking like it’s going to move across Halawa Valley Road, is that correct,” asked Lau.

“The data as mapped certainly indicates, especially monitoring well 12, the one outside of Red Hill Navy property, is essentially our sentinel well now and it has shown the effects that you were saying,” said Fenix Grange, who is with the Health Department’s Hazard Evaluation and Emergency Response.

The agency says the plume at the moment seems to be stable and contracting. The polluted area is no longer feeding any water system. The Navy says after flushing and filtering, it’s water is safe to drink.

“As part of 1,600 samples that we’ve taken a part of the water distribution system, none of them have had indications of JP-5 contamination within the water,” said Capt. James “Gordie” Meyer, commanding officer of NAVFAC Hawaii.

Many in the community are still upset.

“The military poisoned our water, poisoned our children and then lied about it,” said one woman, who testified at the public meeting.

There’s also frustration that the Navy refuses to release its initial internal investigation.

“I want the report from January since that one’s already been written and I don’t really care that it’s only preliminary,” said Dr. Melanie Lau, member of the Hawaii Water Advisory Committee.

The Navy had no timeline for when it will drain the fuel and shut down the Red Hill tanks.

“I don’t expect them to be measured in multiple or several years for each of those steps, but I can’t commit to a timeline now,” said Meyer.

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