Dec 4, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Honolulu water utility shuts down well after fuel contamination

Honolulu Hawaii Oahu skyline from boat marina with sailboats school on small sailboats boating in Yacht Club.
Honolulu Hawaii Oahu skyline from boat marina with sailboats school on small sailboats boating in Yacht Club. Photo: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Honolulu's water utility said Friday it shut down one of its wells amid concerns over fuel contamination in the Navy's tap water supply, according to the Board of Water Supply.

Why it matters: The fuel contamination concerns threaten one of Honolulu’s most important water sources and a key military base, where submarines, ships and the commander of U.S. forces in the Indo-Pacific region are located, AP reports.

The big picture: The move comes after the Navy on Thursday announced that a water sample from one of its wells had shown the presence of petroleum.

  • Nearly 1,000 military households have complained about tap water coming from the well, either of smelling like fuel or causing physical pain, including stomach cramps, per AP.
  • The well, which serves nearly 93,000 people, is near a World War II-era fuel tank complex that has caused numerous leaks over the years.

Driving the news: The Navy will flush clean water through the distribution system to clear petroleum products from the water, a process that could take four to 10 days, per AP.

  • Manager and Chief Engineer of the Board of Water Supply Ernest Lau said Friday he was concerned the "utility could pull contaminated water through the porous lava rock that forms the aquifer, and deliver it to its customers," AP writes.
  • There is no indication that the non-Navy drinking water was contaminated, according to the Honolulu Civil Beat.

What they're saying: "We are deeply concerned that we were not notified immediately by the Navy regarding the shut down of their Red Hill water source," 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."
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