Navy says petroleum contamination detected in second water source in Hawaii

Associated Press/Michael Sohn

The Navy reported petroleum contamination in a second water source at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii.

The Navy reported the contamination at the Aiea Halawa Shaft, the Hawaii Department of Health said in a statement, according to CNN.

Testing at the shaft found 920 parts per billion of total petroleum hydrocarbons diesel range organics, over double the state’s acceptable limit of 400 parts per billion.

The water sample was taken on Sunday, according to Hawaii News Now. The well has been offline since Friday.

“The level of this contaminant poses a public health threat, and is considered unsafe to drink,” Kathleen Ho, deputy director for environmental health, said in the statement, Hawaii News Now reported.

“This news is concerning — especially as the cause of the petroleum release into the Navy’s water system remains unknown,” Ho continued. “We will continue to take all possible action to protect public health and the environment.”

In an emailed statement on Thursday, Commander Navy Region Hawaii’s public affairs office said the Navy was doing “additional water sampling” with the Hawaii Department of Health after the sample, which was taken Dec. 5, showed “elevated results for total petroleum hydrocarbon.” 

The sample wasn’t taken directly from the Aiea Halawa well, the statement said, but from an off-service section of the Navy’s water distribution near the well. 

The Navy does not believe it indicates that the well itself was contaminated, the statement said.   

“The Halawa well has not been used since Dec. 3, and a sample from that day, before the well was off service, indicated that the water was safe,” the statement said. 

The Hill has reached out to the Hawaii Department of Health for comment.

News of the Aiea Halwa Shaft came the same day that the Navy paused operation of the Red Hill Underground Storage Tanks while the U.S. Pacific Fleet investigates the source of petroleum that was contaminating the water system.

Last Friday, the Navy said it detected vapors and petroleum hydrocarbons in the Red Hill well, but said it was “four to ten times below” state requirements. 

Earlier this week, the Navy said it would suspend use of the complex — which sits above an the Red Hill aquifer that provides 20 percent of Honolulu’s drinking water — after about 1,000 military households complained of contaminated tap water 

Health department spokesperson Kaitlyn Arita-Chang told CNN that the source of the Red Hill contamination was identified as jet fuel.

Updated at 3:53 p.m.


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