Amid concerns about contamination’s spread, BWS says Navy denied testing ask

The Board of Water Supply is asking to test the Navy's water wells but the military appears unwilling to allow it.
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 5:49 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 19, 2023 at 10:23 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In another feud surrounding the Red Hill water crisis, the Board of Water Supply is seeking to test the Navy’s water wells but the military appears unwilling to allow it.

In a one-on-one interview with HNN, BWS Chief Engineer and Manager Ernie Lau expressed his frustration about the situation.

Lau said the testing is needed to get more information about a contamination plume from the Navy’s Red Hill fuel spills that tainted the Pearl Harbor drinking water system and sickened thousands in 2021.

Special Section: Navy Water Crisis

“I am tired of hearing experts explain that maybe the plume is shrinking or it’s going away because the levels are going down,” said Lau.

He says Navy reports show the 80-year-old underground fuel facility had 72 documented releases over its history, totaling 180,000 gallons of fuel.

Where that contamination sits underground is unknown and Lau doesn’t want the Board of Water Supply’s three wells to suck in any contamination.

The BWS Halawa Shaft, which supplied 20% of Oahu’s water from Halawa to Hawaii Kai, has been shut down for more than a year because of concerns about contamination potentially spreading.

“I don’t feel comfortable turning them on with this absence of clear conclusive information about how far the contaminant plume is moving through the the aquifer,” said Lau.

The Board of Water Supply asked for permission to test the Navy’s water wells.

But at a town hall meeting Wednesday night, Lau said his request was denied.

“We are allowing you folks to test at our wells or even the EPA or Department of Health, but we want access to every Navy monitor well including also Red Hill shaft,” said Lau.

Lau says BWS will ask again next month.

Hawaii News Now reached out to Navy Region Hawaii for comment.

A spokesperson said it could not immediately respond but would issue a response by Friday.