Eight new monitoring wells will be installed around the Navy’s Red Hill fuel facility to help officials locate and track contamination that leaked from the complex, the state announced Friday.

The Hawaii Commission on Water Resource Management approved a Navy application to install the wells in locations chosen in consultation with the state Department of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a press release.

Approved groundwater monitoring well location around Red Hill fuel facility
This Navy map shows the approved groundwater monitoring well locations around the Red Hill fuel facility. DLNR/2022

Thousands of gallons of fuel leaked from the facility last year, likely combining with petroleum from previous releases in Oahu’s groundwater. Where that contaminated water may be migrating, experts and regulators don’t know, but they hope the new wells will provide some clues.

“These wells will add to our existing knowledge of the hydrogeology of the area and provide for long term monitoring of our water resources,” said Kaleo Manuel, deputy director of the water commission. “These wells meet (the commission’s) construction standards and are designed to protect the environment and water resources.”

Families began smelling fuel in their tap water late last year and many reported health problems, including rashes, headaches and vomiting.

The contamination crisis, which affected the water supply for some 93,000 people in the Pearl Harbor area, has forced the military to agree to drain the fuel and close the World War II-era facility, although the timeline for that is uncertain.

The Navy is required to test samples collected from the detection wells for petroleum and other contaminants to help detect new releases and track plume migration.

In addition, stakeholders in the Aquifer Recovery Focus Group – including officials with the water commission, DOH, EPA, Honolulu Board of Water Supply and U.S. Geological Survey, have located another eight priority locations for monitoring well installation, according to the state.

Regulatory agencies are supporting Navy efforts to work with landowners to site these news wells, which would be located between the Red Hill facility and civilian water supplies.

Those additional wells would also need a permit from the state water commission and are shown in red circles in the map below:

Groundwater Monitoring Well Expansion Red HillOne monitoring well that was previously approved and was being installed near the northeastern end of the facility already has run into problems, according to the state.

In the process of drilling it, the Navy reported to DOH and the water commission that it found “evidence of contamination in soil and pockets of water held above the main aquifer by dense rock or soil,” the state said.

“Work was suspended to assess conditions and seek regulatory direction before proceeding,” the state said. “Detections in these samples were below Environmental Action Levels and did not indicate that fuel contamination was migrating.”

Quality journalism takes time.

A story that takes fives minutes to read often takes days to report.
 
Quality journalism takes time and resources to produce, but with support from readers like you, Civil Beat can investigate issues and publish stories that are otherwise difficult to fund.
 
Become a donor and help support Civil Beat’s next investigation.

About the Author