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News >  Military

Hawaii leaders call on Navy to suspend fuel tank operations

UPDATED: Mon., Dec. 6, 2021

This photo shows a tunnel inside the Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Jan. 26, 2018. The state of Hawaii says a laboratory has detected petroleum product in a water sample from an elementary school near Pearl Harbor. The news comes amid heightened concerns that fuel from the massive Navy storage facility may contaminate Oahu's water supply.  (HOGP)
This photo shows a tunnel inside the Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Jan. 26, 2018. The state of Hawaii says a laboratory has detected petroleum product in a water sample from an elementary school near Pearl Harbor. The news comes amid heightened concerns that fuel from the massive Navy storage facility may contaminate Oahu's water supply. (HOGP)
Associated Press

HONOLULU — Hawaii’s governor and congressional delegation have called on the Navy to suspend operations at World War II era fuel tank farm that sits above an aquifer that supplies water to urban Honolulu.

The call from the elected leaders comes as Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro is set to hold a news conference Monday afternoon at Pearl Harbor to discuss the ongoing crisis concerning tap water at Pearl Harbor.

The Navy last week said a water sample from one of its wells showed the presence of petroleum. The well is near the underground fuel tank complex that has been the source of multiple fuel leaks over the years.

“Test results confirming contamination of drinking water at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam show that the Navy is not effectively operating the World War II-era facility and protecting the health and safety of the people of Hawaii. We are calling for the Navy to immediately suspend operations at Red Hill while they confront and remedy this crisis,” said the Sunday statement signed by Gov. David Ige, U.S. Sens. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz, and U.S. Reps. Ed Cases and Kaiali’i Kahele, all Democrats.

The Navy’s water system serves about 93,000 people. Nearly 1,000 military households complained about their tap water smelling like fuel or of ailments like stomach cramps and vomiting.

The Navy said it would flush clean water through the distribution system to clear residual petroleum products from the water. The process, along with testing, could take up to 10 days to make sure the water meets Environmental Protection Agency drinking standards.

The Navy also pledged to investigate how contaminates got into the well and to fix the problem.

The tap water problems have afflicted one of the military’s most important bases, home to submarines, ships and the commander of U.S. forces in the Indo-Pacific region. They also threaten to jeopardize one of Honolulu’s most important aquifers and water sources.

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