Civil Beat, Christina Jedra, December 1 2021, As officials wait for answers about the source of petroleum contamination in the water near Red Hill, the Honolulu Board of Water Supply is pumping water from one of its wells, the Halawa shaft, at half the rate it normally does as a “precautionary measure,” the agency said on Wednesday.
The water board typically pumps 10 million gallons per day from the Halawa shaft, which provides water to over 400,000 people from Moanalua to Hawaii Kai – over 20% of the water for the area.
As of Wednesday, it was pumping at a rate of 5 million gallons per day.
The move shows that the island agency in charge of delivering clean water to metropolitan Honolulu and beyond is taking seriously the possibility that the island’s drinking water could be at risk.
“Right now, it almost looks like a disaster unfolding before our eyes,” Board of Water Supply Chief Engineer Ernie Lau said.
The Board of Water Supply slowed its pumping amid reports that military housing residents are being sickened by water that smells like fuel and after the Navy stopped pumping at its own Red Hill shaft on Sunday.
On Wednesday, the Hawaii Department of Health announced that preliminary testing detected petroleum in a water sample from Red Hill Elementary School but said details and the source of the problem are still under investigation.
Without the announcement of an official cause, residents have wondered whether their symptoms are connected to a 14,000-gallon spill of fuel and water from a pipeline a quarter-mile downhill from the Red Hill fuel facility on Nov. 20. The World War II-era fuel farm is made up of 20 massive tanks and a system of pipelines, and the Red Hill water shaft is located a half-mile away.
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