Rusty tanks, corroded valves: Probe finds potential violations with military water system

The Navy insists it's already working to fix the issues as the Red Hill water crisis drags on.
Published: Aug. 22, 2022 at 3:57 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 22, 2022 at 5:39 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new EPA investigation found numerous problems with the military’s water distribution system for 93,000 people around Pearl Harbor, issues that may violate federal and state regulations.

Investigators found particles floating on the water at a Halawa shaft infiltration tunnel.

Photos also showed rusty water tanks, unlabeled fluoride tanks and leaks from a corroded valve to the Red Hill tanks, but it was unclear if it was fuel or water.

[Special Section: Navy Water Crisis]

“The reports found that both the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army have failed to adequately operate and maintain their public water systems serving Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and Aliamanu Military Reservation,” said the EPA.

Wayne Tanaka, director of the Sierra Club of Hawaii, said the report showed the water crisis is the result of “years of systemic issues and failures where the Navy has demonstrated that it cannot comply with the regulations.”

“There was no water system operator safety training program. There was no process for even checking the wells.”

Meanwhile, Navy Region Hawaii issued the following statement:

“The Navy has been working with both the Department of Health and EPA to address concerns that were identified in the April 2022 EPA report. The Navy took immediate action prior to the report being published based on verbal feedback from the EPA during their site visit/inspection. Since the Navy began long-term monitoring of the Navy water distribution system on March 22, the Navy has received over 3,000 EPA drinking water certified lab results from samples, which show that the water distribution system at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam is providing safe drinking water to its users.”

Ariana Wyatt and her family lived at the Hickam military base and were sickened by last year’s fuel leaks from Red Hill. They’ve since moved away, but say they’re still dealing with health issues.

She said the EPA report “breaks your heart.”

“To think that’s how it’s being run and that’s what you were drinking from for so long,” she said. “It infuriates me.”

The EPA says there continues to be an ongoing enforcement effort related to the inspection reports.

They also said it’s early to answer questions on specific violations and penalties.

Meanwhile, on Hanalei Beach on Kauai on Sunday, kids took their message about Red HIll to vacationing Vice President Kamala Harris. “We wanted to ask you to shut the Red Hill down,” said Bea Kaumoana, who’s 13.

“We’ve been working on that. I agree with you. We need to handle that. It’s a very big issue,” said Harris.

Then Harris took a photo with Kaumoana and her two friends.

“I agree with you guys. Continue to be active like that and lead,” said Harris.