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Hawaiʻi congressional delegation wants a federal emergency declaration due to tainted Navy water

An image showing the locations of the underground BWS Halawa Shaft and Red Hill.
Honolulu Board of Water Supply
An image showing the locations of the underground BWS Halawa Shaft and Red Hill.

The Hawaiʻi congressional delegation is urging Gov. David Ige to request an emergency declaration from President Joe Biden due to the Navy's contaminated water system near Pearl Harbor.

U.S. Sens. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz and U.S. Reps. Ed Case and Kai Kahele say the emergency declaration would give the state resources to help residents affected by petroleum in their water.

In a press conference Friday, Hirono says she expects the upcoming visit to Hawaiʻi by Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro to spur aid efforts.

Del Toro will be in the islands for the commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Hirono says the issue of tainted water in the area around Pearl Harbor needs to be fixed immediately.

"This is totally abnormal, totally unacceptable, and so yeah, the fact that the Secretary of the Navy is coming to Hawaiʻi very much elevates this situation to a level where remedies will need to be forthcoming as soon as possible," she said.

The Navy said Thursday evening that tests showed petroleum products in its Red Hill water well, but it has not located the source of the problem.

The Navy is flushing its water system, a process that could take between four and 10 days.

Their full statement reads:

"While the test results leave many questions, it is clear that the Navy has failed to manage its fuel operations, including Red Hill, to a standard that protects the health and safety of the people of Hawai‘i. The Navy must immediately identify, isolate, and fix the problems that have allowed the contamination of the drinking water at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. That includes a wholesale change in an organizational culture that has allowed too many accidents to occur without any accountability. We expect the Navy to also provide all affected residents with safe drinking water, and access to temporary lodging, laundry services, and other necessities that will help them get through this crisis. The Navy must also work with state regulators to identify and isolate other potential fuel leaks that risk further contamination of drinking water resources on Oahu. Finally, we urge the governor to request that the president declare an emergency as soon as possible so that the state has access to every resource available to make families whole and protect the people of Hawai‘i from future leaks. We will remain personally involved in applying the full resources of our offices and Congress to ensuring that the Navy fully resolves this crisis.”

Scott Kim was a news editor at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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