HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Board of Water Supply says Oahu could face water shortages this summer as it continues to operate under what it calls “stress conditions” linked to the Navy’s contaminated water system.
This comes as the Department of Defense announces plans to appeal an order to shut down its 250,000,000 gallon capacity Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility by Wednesday.
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“Today’s announcement that it intends to appeal is yet another breach of trust between the Navy and the people of Hawaii. We will continue our fight in court to force the Navy to render the Red Hill facility safe,” Hawaii Department of Health Deputy Director Kathleen Ho said.
Members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation were quick to criticize the DoD for the decision.
“The DoD made a grave and unforced error that undermines public trust. Fortunately, we have civilian oversight of the military, and this inexplicable and maddening resistance to the defuel order will not succeed. They will lose in court, and they will lose in Congress.” Senator Brian Schatz said.
“I strongly disagree with the Defense Department’s decision to further contest the State’s emergency order. I will do everything I can to fully effectuate the order and, if necessary, to confirm that Hawai’i and any other state is legally entitled to protect its drinking water.” Representative Ed Case said.
The Navy argues that the appeal will give time for “evidence-based and transparent decisions” but time remains of the essence.
The Honolulu Board of Water Supply has shut down its Aiea Well, Halawa Well, and Halawa Shaft, the latter of which accounts for 20% of Honolulu’s water. The shut-down was in response to the Navy’s November fuel spill and subsequent water contamination. BWS Chief Engineer Ernest Lau says he is not confident enough to open the closed wells even though shutdowns could push the system past its limits during dry summer conditions.
“That’s why we’re going to probably enter into periods of requests for voluntary, perhaps mandatory water conservation for people to meet and make sure the demand for water and what people are using for water does not exceed our available supply,” Lau told a legislative hearing Monday.
According to the National Weather Service, all of Hawaii’s counties had at least severe drought in November, but one of the wettest Decembers in the past 50 years has washed out the state’s drought.
The NWS predicts above normal rainfall through the spring, but forecasts for the summer have yet to be released. The BWS says they will be monitoring conditions.
“There could be periods of time when some of our customers may experience complete water outage until we can get the demand back down to match the supply,” Lau said.
State lawmakers have crafted bills to drain the fuel tanks as well. Red Hill Representative Aaron Ling Johanson introduced HB2274 this session, which would prohibit new underground fuel tanks within one-half mile of an aquifer and eliminate renewal for permits of these tanks by 2050.
“The Navy’s decision to appeal the Department of Health’s Emergency Order is unacceptable,” Rep. Johanson said. “The Navy has known of leaks associated with the Red Hill Fuel Storage Facility for years now and to further delay action by appealing this order only further jeopardizes the safety of our water supply.”
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The Department of Health’s emergency order is scheduled to remain in effect through the Navy’s appeal.