Poisoned Drinking Water in Hawaii: Visitors on Oahu Can Relax!

Drinking water in Waikiki, Koolina, the North Shore, or Kailua, where visitors would stay on Oahu is one of the cleanest and healthiest tap waters you can find anywhere in the United States.

However, according to Hawaii Rep. Kai Kahele, there is a crisis of astronomical proportions in Honolulu County. Kahele was referring to a fuel leak in the Navy’s Red Hill fuel storage on the Island of Oahu.

Hawaii’s congressional delegation issued a joint statement last week urging the Navy to better communicate with the community about events at its Red Hill fuel farm and respond faster to reports of a fuel odor in tap water supplied by its water system serving Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono and U.S. Reps. Ed Case and Kai Kahele said in a press release that they recently met with Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro to discuss fuel operations in Hawaii. Del Toro will be in Hawaii on December 7 to investigate this issue directly.

The US Navy said they are investigating a leak at its Red Hill fuel storage facility after a mixture of water and fuel was released from a drain line. This already was an issue in 2014.

The 2014 leak has not produced satisfactory answers, let alone solutions, seven years later.

According to recent reports in Hawaii local media, the Navy had deliberately not explained the entire issue to Hawaii authorities and the public.

The Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility is a military fuel storage facility on the Island of Oahu, Hawaii. Operated by the United States Navy, Red Hill supports U.S. military operations in the Pacific. Unlike any other facility in the United States, Red Hill can store up to 250 million gallons of fuel.

It consists of 20 steel-lined underground storage tanks encased in concrete and built into cavities that were mined inside of Red Hill. Each tank has a storage capacity of approximately 12.5 million gallons.

The Red Hill tanks are connected to three gravity-fed pipelines that run 2.5 miles inside a tunnel to fueling piers at Pearl Harbor. Each of the 20 tanks at Red Hill measures 100 feet in diameter and is 250 feet in height.

Red Hill is located under a volcanic mountain ridge near Honolulu. It was declared a Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1995.

Before the United States entered World War II, the Roosevelt Administration became concerned about the vulnerability of the many above-ground fuel storage tanks at Pearl Harbor. In 1940 it decided to build a new underground facility that would store more fuel and be safe from an enemy aerial attack.

Petroleum has been found in water from a Navy-managed treatment plant in Honolulu, the Hawaii Department of Health. This was announced Wednesday.

Health officials said testing at Red Hill Elementary School showed positive results for petroleum in the drinking water. A sample was sent to California for further analysis.

According to a report published first by Civil Beat, samples taken on Sunday night, officials identified trace amounts of “very volatile hydrocarbons” which are associated with JP-5 jet fuel or diesel fuel, Converse said. A second test completed on Thursday found “clear indications of petroleum products” just above the water line in the well.

Contaminants in the water were xylene, naphthalene, and total petroleum hydrocarbons with gasoline components.

Xylene is a flammable liquid with a sweet odor that is used in petroleum products, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Exposure to the chemical can also cause headaches, dizziness, confusion, and loss of muscle coordination, the CDC says on its website.

On Tuesday, the Hawaii Health Department said that all customers of the Navy’s water system, which serves roughly 93,000 people at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and elsewhere, should avoid drinking or cooking with the water or using it for oral hygiene, even if they didn’t smell anything wrong.

Military officials are responding to 680 reports received so far from military residents that their tap water smells of fuel. On Wednesday Navy officials began handing out water to residents of some base neighborhoods.

Families are using shower facilities at public beaches because they don’t trust the water source at the on-base gymnasiums and facilities being offered to them.

The Navy has detected petroleum products in its Red Hill drinking water well, which has been shut down since Sunday, The Navy told a local newspaper, tests for contamination throughout the Navy’s Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam water distribution system have come back negative.

The Honolulu Board of Water Supply, whose Halawa shaft provides water to 400,000 people from Moanalua to Hawaii Kai, is concerned about a snowball effect.

Hawaii Governor David Ige issued a statement to the local paper, Star-Advertiser, calling the announcement deeply disturbing.

Hawaii Lt. Governor Green said he was concerned for the health and safety of those living in the affected areas and understand their need for timely and accurate information.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green also put out a statement today pressing the Navy to work in partnership with DOH and Hawaii’s congressional delegation to address the contamination.

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