Energy & Environment

Honolulu shuts down water well amid fuel contamination concern

Honolulu has shut down one of its water wells following reports that water from the source was contaminated with petroleum.

The Honolulu Board of Water Supply (BWS) announced on Friday that it “completely shut down” the Halawa Shaft, which is the largest water source on Oahu, after the Navy reported that their Red Hill well was contaminated.

“We are deeply concerned that we were not notified immediately by the Navy regarding the shut down of their Red Hill water source,” BWS Manager and Chief Engineer Ernest Lau said in a statement.

“We have data that shows when they stop pumping at Red Hill, water starts moving in the direction of our Halawa Shaft due to our pumping. In an abundance of caution, we must shut down Halawa Shaft until further notice,” he added.

The well has been the origin of a number of fuel leaks in previous years, according to The Associated Press.

BWS said it will make up for the 20 percent of water supplied by the Halawa Shaft by increasing pumpage from other sources. It said it does not currently anticipate any large impacts.

Almost 1,000 military households had raised concerns regarding their tap water having a fuel-like odor, and causing physical symptoms including stomach cramp and vomiting, the AP reported. Ninety-three thousand people reportedly get resources from the Navy’s water system.

On Thursday the Navy said it planned to run clear water through its system to rid it of any petroleum, according to the AP. Testing would then be conducted to ensure that the water is in line with drinking standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The entire process could take between four and 10 days, the AP reported.

The Navy also said it will continue looking into how contaminants infiltrated the well, and how best to repair the issue, according to the AP.

It has already reportedly started giving bottled water out to individuals, and is planning to set up showers and laundry locations where individuals can utilize clean water. Additionally, the Navy is starting to establish medical clinics for affected individuals.

Military officials also said they will assist affected families in the interim, including moving them into hotels or new homes, according to the AP.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said it is “totally abnormal, totally unacceptable” for people to be smelling fuel in their water, according to the AP. She also told reporters on a conference call that “all options are on the table” for reacting to the current situation, but first wanted to concentrate on getting people safe water.

Tags Mazie Hirono

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