Navy shuts off 2nd well in Hawaii following water contamination

The Navy has now paused all operations at the fuel site.

December 8, 2021, 9:53 PM

The Navy has shut down a second well following a water contamination that suspended operations at a facility in Hawaii.

The Hawaii Department of Health issued an an emergency order Monday to immediately halt operations at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Honolulu following reports of a water contamination.

About a week earlier, health officials and the Navy advised residents in Pearl Harbor to stop using tap water after dangerous levels of petroleum products were found in the water system at the Joint Base at Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Military housing residents reported a fuel-like odor coming from their tap water, ABC Honolulu affiliate KITV reported.

Navy officials confirmed to KITV that a second water well has been shut off amid the investigation into the contaminated water supply. Now that the Halawa and Red Hill wells have been turned off, the Navy is only pumping from the Waiawa shaft, according to the station.

PHOTO: This photo shows a tunnel inside the Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Jan. 26, 2018.
This photo shows a tunnel inside the Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Jan. 26, 2018.
U.S. Navy via AP, FILE

Former commissioner on the Hawaii State Water Resource Management Commission Kamanamaikalani Beamer said during a virtual discussion with Hawaii's congressional delegation Tuesday that the issue has been going on for "many years" and that during his time at the commission officials were questioning the Navy about the safety of the drinking water.

"There has never been a more serious and critical threat to the life-giving waters of Oahu than there is at this moment," Beamer said.

The Navy is responsible for ensuring safe water for nearby residents and has been ordered by the state's Department of Health to provide alternative drinking water to about 93,000 residents who may be affected.

The DOH also ordered the Navy to immediately install a drinking water treatment system at the Red Hill Shaft and submit a work plan to assess system integrity. Within 30 days of completing the correction action, the Navy must then defuel the underground storage tanks there.

PHOTO: A ship passes near Ford Island in Honolulu's Pearl Harbor, Jan 17, 2018.
A ship passes near Ford Island in Honolulu's Pearl Harbor, Jan 17, 2018.
UIG via Getty Images, FILE

After previously saying it planned to contest Gov. David Ige's emergency order that shuttered operations at the fuel facility, the Navy said Wednesday evening it will pause operations until the completion of an investigation into the source of oil affecting the water supply at the homes of service members.

"The safety, health and well-being of our service members, civilians, contractors, their families and our communities here in Oahu is of the utmost importance to me," Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro said in a statement. "This is not acceptable and the Department of the Navy will take every action to identify and remedy this issue. We will continue to coordinate with federal, state and local entities to restore safe drinking water to the community."

During Hawaii's congressional delegation on Tuesday, Ige said he does not anticipate any delays to the investigative process, saying that finding the source of the contamination is of the utmost importance.

The health department will not declare whether the water is safe until no contamination has been detected over a period of time, Ige said.

ABC News' Luis Martinez and Kiara Alfonseca contributed to this report.

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