The Navy urged residents to conserve water after a fourth water main break occurred on its system Monday, adding to the list of problems for some 93,000 people near Pearl Harbor who faced a fuel contamination crisis last year.

Military officials said people should continue to boil water for drinking and cooking as a precaution against bacteria until the system is deemed safe.

“My main concern is the sediment and bacteria,” Navy Capt. Mark Sohaney, the commander of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, said at a news conference.

US Navy Capt. Mark Suhaney speaks to media about the recent water main breaks that happened recently.
Navy Capt. Mark Sohaney said the water lines remain under a boil advisory and urged residents to conserve water. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

The previous three water main breaks occurred Friday, prompting the Navy to order residents to boil their water and forcing the closure of child development centers, gyms and other facilities.

The problem also caused the Navy to delay plans to start draining fuel from three pipelines at the Red Hill fuel storage complex on Monday in the first step toward closing the World War II-era facility. Officials had said they would remove more than a million gallons of fuel, paving the way toward making repairs and emptying massive storage tanks.

A Red Hill task force said the defueling process would begin after the broken water lines are repaired.

“The water main breaks identified by Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam impacted systems being used to prepare for unpacking operations at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility,” spokeswoman Tiffani Walker said in an email statement. She stressed that the task force’s priority is safety and it “will continue to adjust the unpacking schedule as necessary to decrease risk and ensure the safest possible execution.”

Sohaney estimated the water main breaks will take seven to 10 days to fix. The first three water main water breaks happened Friday by the Hawaiian Electric Co. power station on Kamehameha Highway, Salt Lake Boulevard and Namur Road, and the Joint Base Annex at West Loch. The fourth break happened Monday at Pearl City.

The Navy has been providing potable water and has said that water is safe for showers and other uses while ordering the boil advisory as a precaution.

But many residents vented their frustrations at a town hall meeting on Sunday, asking for hotel vouchers, transparency on the water issue and recognition of their concerns.

Suspicion remains after hundreds of families were forced to temporarily move out of their homes last year when fuel leaked into the water system. U.S. Pacific Fleet investigations determined that human error and systemic negligence allowed two leaks to occur within months of each other.

Halsey Terrace resident Amanda Zawieruszynski said she’s not surprised at the water main break. Zawieruszynski said the Navy was supplying affected individuals a gallon of potable water per day but no hotel vouchers.

“The Navy keeps putting Band-Aids on the situation regarding the water crisis, none of which has worked,” Zawieruszynski said in an interview. “It continues to show now through these water breaks that are happening all of a sudden, which is very odd timing.”

The first three water main breaks on Friday occurred around the same time the Red Hill task force was to host a media tour of the defueling operation. Sohaney said the fourth water main break would not affect the Navy’s scheduled repairs.

“My No. 1 concern is for the health, safety and well-being of our community,” Sohaney said. “We’ll make that assessment, and we’ll take care of those families.”

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