10 December HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Samples collected by the state Health Department earlier this month at the Navy’s Red Hill water shaft found petroleum levels 66 to 350 times higher than the limits considered safe for drinking water, the state announced Friday.
The results were the latest worrisome development in the contaminated water crisis, which has left dozens sick, displaced at least 3,000 families and prevented thousands more from using their tap water.
Meanwhile, Navy officials said during a legislative briefing Friday they believe they’ve found the source of the contamination ― a spill on Nov. 20 at a fire suppression system downhill from Red Hill and not the underground fuel tanks that have been the source of a number of leaks in recent years.
“The Navy is responsible for this crisis,” Adm. Samuel Paparo, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, told lawmakers. “We are taking ownership and we are going to fix it.”
At the briefing, U.S. Pacific Fleet Deputy Commander Blake Converse said Navy tests have confirmed the petroleum in the Red Hill shaft is jet fuel from a relatively new spill.
He said they believe “with a high degree of confidence” that the contamination is from the Nov. 20 spill of jet fuel from a fire suppression drain line in the tunnel downhill of the Red Hill bulk fuel storage tanks. The Navy has said that 14,000 gallons of fuel and water were released in that incident.
Eight days after the spill, military families first started reporting a bad smell and taste in the water. Some said it made them sick, and the Health Department has gotten 600 complaints so far.
Converse stressed they don’t think the fuel is from the underground Red Hill fuel tanks.
In response to those claims, lawmakers expressed skepticism, saying they wanted confirmation about the source of the fuel from the state Health Department and EPA.
The state Health Department says the cause of the leak remains under investigation.
“The Navy, frankly, lately hasn’t given us a lot of reason to trust them so I think we all feel that we want an independent agency to come in and verify,” said House Environment Chair Nicole Lowen.
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