BWS holds emergency briefing, raising questions over toxic foam spill at Red Hill

An emergency briefing by the Board of Water Supply reveals what triggered the release of 1,300 gallons of toxic fire suppressant foam.
Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 5:07 AM HST|Updated: Dec. 7, 2022 at 5:32 AM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In an emergency briefing by the Board of Water Supply, it was revealed that the firefighting foam came spilling out after pressure built up too high inside an air relief valve.

The Board of Water Supply’s Deputy Manager, Erwin Kawata spoke before the Shut Down Red Hill Coalition in a Zoom meeting Tuesday evening.

With investigations ongoing, Kawata said the AFFF (Aqueous Film Forming Foam) leaked from an air relief valve after a pump pressurized a pipeline used to distribute the AFFF throughout the lower access tunnel.

Kawata said the information leaves his department with even more questions.

“So, for something that brand new to fail, we’re asking a lot of questions as to why did it fail like that?” said Kawata.

He said it’s not common for these types of incidents to happen.

“We have air relief valves in our system to and they’re designed to let air out but keep the liquid in,” Kawata explained. “So, if you operate your system correctly, air relief valves essentially reduce pipeline pressure so that the pipe doesn’t over pressurize and break.”

Kawata said the pipes are new.

According to a Civil Beat report published in February, a part of the fire suppression system installed in 2017 had a leak that was discovered in the newer part of the system, which was expanded in 2019.

The report states the system required repairs last year.

Kawata said he has yet to see video of the toxic spill of firefighting foam concentrate.

The military said they won’t release it to the public because it “may impact the integrity of the investigation.” “We’re very disappointed,” said Kawata. “Number one it’s not in keeping with the Navy’s continual call for better transparency.”

Kawata said a different entity needs to take over the facility.

“This is something that we told the Navy from from day one in 2014 when they had that leak, we told them, tell it like it is, good, bad or indifferent,” said Kawata. “Yes, the public is going to get upset, yes, people are going to be uncomfortable with it, but if you get it out there, people can also understand the challenges you’re dealing with”

“And maybe we can approach this in a very different kind of way, but you know, it chose a different path.”

State Sen. Donna Mercado Kim is organizing a town hall to discuss the issue on Dec.12 at Moanalua Middle School.

The senator said the military will attend.