Board Of Water Supply Won’t Compromise Safety For Oahu Customers - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Kathleen M. Pahinui

Kathleen M. Pahinui is the public information officer for the Honolulu Board of Water Supply.

The Honolulu Board of Water Supply would like to thank Civil Beat columnist Danny De Gracia for his efforts to continue the conversation regarding the ongoing drinking water crisis caused by the contamination of Oahu’s irreplaceable sole-source aquifer from the U.S. Navy’s operations at Red Hill. We cannot let this issue disappear; so long as millions of gallons of fuel remain directly over our aquifer, the very drinking water upon which the people of Oahu rely will be in peril.

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Unfortunately, Mr. De Gracia’s opinion on the BWS’ response to the Red Hill emergency (“Don’t Stick Oahu Residents With The Bill For Red Hill”) simply misses the mark. It is not clear how Mr. De Gracia arrived at the idea the BWS is not pressing the Navy to take responsibility for the humanitarian and environmental emergency and disaster it caused.

For years, the BWS has been warning of the danger that the Red Hill facility poses to our drinking water and has written over 140 letters urging the Navy to take decisive action to address the Red Hill problem. Tragically, these pleas went largely unheeded until the Navy’s fuel releases impacted the drinking water of thousands of service members and their families.

Mr. De Gracia’s statements about the BWS “playing it safe” are simply wrong. To be clear, the BWS will not compromise when it comes to the safety of the water we supply to the people of Oahu. We take pride in ensuring our water is safe and pure when the communities we serve turn on their taps.

Mr. De Gracia appears to have misunderstood manager and chief engineer Ernie Lau’s important message. Mr. Lau was attempting to show the impact the Red Hill crisis was having on the Board of Water Supply and the tremendous amount of investment required to address the resulting fallout. The Board of Water Supply would like to assure Oahu residents that with the support of Hawaii’s congressional delegation and a direct request to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, we have made strong demands for federal financial support for these unplanned requirements.

Board of Water Supply Manager and Chief Engineer Ernie Lau fuel leak v3
Board of Water Supply Manager and Chief Engineer Ernie Lau speaking to the media in December. Public hearings may be held on possible changes in customer water rates. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

But, we cannot wait until the BWS receives federal funding before finding solutions to the existing problem; namely, the loss, possibly permanently, of vital drinking water sources, such as the Halawa Shaft, Aiea Well and Halawa Well. We must continue to be proactive in advancing our mission to provide safe, dependable, and affordable water now and into the future.

In furtherance of this mission, we do all that we can to ensure our rates remain affordable for the community. The BWS is funded by its rate payers; we do not receive any funding from the city.

Rate Study Planned

The BWS will be starting our five-year rate study shortly, a project already in procurement when the Navy service members and their families experienced the contamination of the Navy’s drinking water system. We will look very closely at what the rate study says, share this information with the community, and hold several public hearings on possible new rates as well as provide presentations to community groups and neighborhood boards.

It is certainly premature to assume rates will rise significantly. We will also consider any funding received from the federal government during or after this process and how it can benefit our rate payers — we have received a number of excellent, creative ideas from the community.

Safe water must be delivered to our customers.

Any possible rate increases would not be implemented until fiscal year 2024, at the earliest, and must be approved by the BWS Board. The BWS’ financial information and annual audits are available for review on our website and we update our board quarterly on budget performance. Our board meetings are open to the public.

In closing, Mr. De Gracia says “Don’t make locals fix problems they didn’t create. This is not our war, and this is not our bill to pick up.”

Mr. De Gracia is correct that we, the people of Oahu, did not create this problem. Our community is not responsible for the Navy’s actions, and the BWS will continue to do all that we can, including working to secure funding and reimbursement from the federal government, to hold the Navy accountable.

In the meantime, safe water must be delivered to our customers. That is something the BWS refuses to compromise on, and we will do everything in our power to ensure the availability of pure drinking water for the people of Oahu. We hope others will join the BWS in seeking federal government support to ensure we have a safe, reliable drinking water supply.

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About the Author

Kathleen M. Pahinui

Kathleen M. Pahinui is the public information officer for the Honolulu Board of Water Supply.

Latest Comments (0)

Mahalo BOWS for your vigilance and tireless efforts. I never give Danny any more than a penny for his thoughts since he is not from here and is not truly invested in our communities, as clearly evidenced by his many diatribes on anything Hawaiian or local.

Leinani · 2 months ago

Mahalo, Kathleen, for setting the record straight. Ernie Lau and the entire team of BWS are the heroes who have not only sounded the alarm but taken up whatever means within their power to address this serious threat to our healthy and safety. While pursuing all avenues of authority, they are not waiting to be rescued, instead looking at how current or former wells can be used, taking proactive steps to explore areas for new wells and asking us to conserve use of this precious resource. Let’s all do what we can to help ourselves and our community as we wait for the "higher ups" to do what’s pono.

SCL · 2 months ago

Thank you, Ernie Lau and the whole BWS team, for staunchly and tirelessly fighting for the people of Oahu.

CBsupporter · 2 months ago

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