waiwai e-newsletter
Wednesday, August 24, 2022 | Issue 09

Monitoring Well Detects
Petroleum in Groundwater

The Board of Water Supply has detected polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) in a groundwater monitoring well located in Moanalua Valley. 

PAHs are a class of chemicals that occur naturally in coal, crude oil, and gasoline. They also are produced when coal, oil, gas, wood, garbage, and tobacco are burned. High-temperature cooking will form PAHs in meat and in other foods.  

BWS also detected total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) in the samples tested. 

The monitoring well, identified as DH-43, is located approximately 1,500 feet to the southeast of the Red Hill facility. The PAHs detected were at very low levels and there is no current change in operations for BWS because of this detection.


No Health Emergency But Needs Ongoing Monitoring
The BWS met with the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to share the most recent water sample data. Both agencies are reviewing BWS test results and may take additional testing samples. However, DOH and the EPA agree the very low levels of PAHs detected is not expected to cause any health effects and is not a health emergency, but needs attention and continued monitoring.

Possible Aquifer Contamination
“This latest detection of PAH and TPH contamination in DH-43 significantly heightens the BWS’ concern that fuel contamination from the Red Hill facility is traveling through Oahu’s sole-source aquifer,” said Ernie Lau, BWS Manager and Chief Engineer. “The recent contaminant detections in our DH-43 monitoring well are warnings that we cannot ignore. Our precious and irreplaceable water resources are at risk of further contamination every day the fuel remains in the Red Hill tanks. We urge the Navy to expeditiously defuel and permanently close the Red Hill facility – Ola I Ka Wai.”


Ongoing Testing Since 2014
To ensure the water remains safe to drink, the BWS has been testing drinking water wells near Red Hill after the U.S. Navy reported fuel leaks from its fuel storage tank facility in 2014. In 2015, found no PAHs or TPH in the water samples tested at the DH-432 monitoring well.

However, because of the November 2021 fuel leak and other releases from the Red Hill facility as well as the Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam drinking water crisis, the BWS was forced to shut down the operation of its Halawa Shaft, Aiea Wells and Halawa Wells and increased the frequency of testing the drinking water wells near Red Hill. This was the first time the water sample tests showed the presence of petroleum products.

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Posted: 08/24/2022