HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) on Friday, Dec. 10, confirmed that samples collected from the Navy’s Red Hill drinking water shaft tested positive for high levels of gasoline and diesel range hydrocarbons.
The samples were collected on Sunday, Dec. 5, and results were received late Thursday night. The DOH said the confirmation is consistent with what their personnel observed when samples were collected.
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The Hawaii State Legislature held a joint informational briefing with various state, county, and federal agencies to discuss the results.
The DOH reported that samples from the Navy’s Red Hill shaft contained total petroleum hydrocarbons diesel range organics (TPH-d) 350 times the DOH Environmental Action Level (EAL) for drinking water. The samples also tested positive for gasoline range organics more than 66 times the DOH EAL.
Click here to read the laboratory results from the Navy’s Red Hill shaft.
In addition, trace levels of petroleum were found in samples collected at the Aliamanu Child Development Center and private residences on the Navy’s water system, including the Eagle Circle at Red Hill and Milo Lane in Aliamanu Military Reservation, the state health department said.
DOH issued an emergency order asking the Navy to immediate action.
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“Suspend operation at Red Hill bulk fuel storage facility, take immediate steps to install a drinking water treatment system at Red Hill shaft and to submit a work plan,” explained Kathleen Ho, deputy director for Environmental Health Administration. “And (submit) a time schedule within 30 days to assess the facilities system and integrity and to safely defuel the bulk fuel storage tanks and take corrective actions as necessary.”
According to Joanna Seto, from the DOH Safe Drinking Water Branch, only part of the Navy’s plan to flush the contaminated water was approved. DOH is monitoring the situation closely and working with multiple state agencies to ensure there are no harmful environmental impacts in that process.
Ernie Lau, the manager and chief engineer at BWS, said BWS water supply supports the DOH’s emergency order sighting the need to protect the aquifer that sits below the fuel tanks from further contamination.
“The faster that the fuel can be removed from that facility and not be above a drinking aquifer, that unfortunately, we heard today is now contaminated and at quite high levels,” Lau added.
BWS shut down the Halawa shaft on Dec. 3, which is one of its main sources of water. On Thursday, Dec. 9, they also shut down their Aiea well out of an abundance of caution.
State Toxicologist Dr. Diana Felton said short-term exposure should not have long-term effects.
“I really want to stress that all the risks are not fully understood yet,” Felton explained. “There is no robust data on the long-term health effects for some of the suspected contaminants.”
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The DOH continues to advise Navy water system users to avoid using the water for drinking, cooking or oral hygiene. If the water has a fuel-like odor, also avoid using it for bathing, dishwashing or laundry. This recommendation applies to users of the Navy’s JBPHH water system, which includes the Aliamanu Military Reservation, Red Hill and Nimitz Elementary Schools and military housing.