DOT: Training pits at HNL, Kahului airport contaminated with ‘forever chemicals’

Kahului and HNL Airport's former training pits contaminated with 'forever chemicals'.
Kahului and HNL Airport's former training pits contaminated with 'forever chemicals'.(Hawaii News Now)
Published: Dec. 29, 2022 at 4:43 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 29, 2022 at 6:48 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Department of Transportation confirmed Thursday that soil and groundwater at Honolulu’s Airport is contaminated with so-called forever chemicals.

The contamination of PFAS chemicals was found at a former training pit where toxic firefighting foam (AFFF) was used.

State firefighters stopped training with AFFF in 2021. The department said there is no public access to this contaminated area.

Meanwhile, DOT officials issued a correction to its earlier statements from Wednesday which only confirmed contamination in the soil and groundwater beneath a firefighting training pit at Kahului Airport.

Health officials reported the Maui contamination is significantly above action levels, but drinking water is not impacted.

The Department of Health environmental action level for PFOS is .025 parts-per-million. The highest concentration of PFOS identified in soil at the Kahului site was .8 parts-per-million.

Officials said five PFAS compounds (PFOS, PFHxA, PFHxS, PFHpS, and PFOSA) were identified in groundwater beneath the fire training pit.

The DOH environmental action level for PFOS in groundwater is 1.1 parts-per billion. And researchers said the highest concentration of PFOS found in the groundwater was 1,600 parts-per-billion.

“The groundwater at the fire training area is not a source of drinking water and will not impact a source of drinking water,” said health department spokesperson, Brooks Baehr. “Several monitoring wells have been installed to monitor potential impact in the area.”

Baehr said adverse health effects from the “forever chemicals” is still being gathered through scientific studies and much is unknown.

“There is evidence that high exposure to PFOA and PFOS through drinking water contaminated with these chemicals can cause reproductive, developmental, liver, kidney, and immunological problems in laboratory animals,” Baehr said.

“Human studies have shown problems with cholesterol levels, the immune system, thyroid gland function, and decreased weight at birth.

Meanwhile, the transportation department said test results from Kona and Hilo airports are still pending. Lihue Airport’s suspected area will be tested in the coming months.