Amid on ongoing water contamination crisis impacting thousands of military households, the Honolulu Board of Water Supply says its test results continue to come back clean.

The civilian water utility said on Monday that samples taken from its Pearl City shaft, Pearl City wells, Aiea wells, and Aiea Gulch wells showed no evidence of petroleum products.

“The BWS will continue to test the Aiea Wells and Aiea Gulch Wells on the weekly schedule along with Halawa Shaft, Halawa Wells, and Moanalua Wells,” BWS said in a statement. “Pearl City Shaft and Pearl City Wells I were one-time tests as a precautionary measure.”

Board of Water Supply Manager and Chief Engineer Ernie Lau updates media. December 13, 2021
Board of Water Supply Manager and Chief Engineer Ernie Lau says his customers don’t have to worry. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

Meanwhile, the 93,000 customers of the Navy’s water system in and around Pearl Harbor are still being advised not to drink their water, guidance that the state health department issued just after Thanksgiving. Navy officials believe their water was contaminated with jet fuel following two leaks that occurred this year at the Red Hill fuel facility, an underground fuel farm that stores 180 million gallons of fuel and a pipeline system that delivers fuel to Pearl Harbor.

One incident on Nov. 20 released an estimated 14,000 gallons of fuel and water from a fire suppression system drain line in a tunnel a quarter-mile from the tanks. Military families began complaining of a fuel smell in their water and related illnesses within days of that event.

Earlier this year, on May 6, a burst pipeline in the facility’s lower access tunnel spewed fuel initially estimated to total about 1,000 gallons. However, last week, Navy officials said that in fact, as many as 19,000 gallons of fuel may have been released on that day, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported. The U.S. Pacific Fleet is investigating whether that May event may have led to the one in November.

While the Navy and Board of Water Supply had separate distribution systems, they get their water from the same aquifer. To avoid contamination, BWS has stopped pumping from some of its nearby wells as a precaution.

Last month, Gov. David Ige’s administration ordered the Navy to cease operations at Red Hill and make a plan to drain the tanks. The Navy is now fighting that order and participated in a 13-hour hearing process last week in an attempt to convince a Hawaii Department of Health hearing officer not to enforce it. The military argues Red Hill is a vital national security asset. Meanwhile, the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, Sierra Club and many residents are calling for the facility’s closure.

The DOH hearing officer on Monday recommended the closure of the Red Hill facility, in support of Ige’s order. The Navy has until Wednesday to object.

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