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Board of Water Supply official says it is too early to consider restarting Halawa Shaft

Erwin Kawata Honolulu Board of Water Supply.JPG
Jason Ubay
FILE - The Honolulu Board of Water Supply's Erwin Kawata addresses the media in Honolulu on Monday, Dec. 13, 2021.

A Board of Water Supply official says accumulated fuel leaks from the Red Hill storage facility on Oʻahu could prevent a key water well from ever being brought back online.

Erwin Kawata, program administrator for the BWS, told the Board of Water Supply Directors that it is too early to consider restarting operations at the Halawa Shaft — which provides about 20% of Honolulu’s water supply.

Kawata says a major question is how the fuel, or “free product”, reacts as it moves through the aquifer.

"How does it interact going across the valley, in not only the free product phase but the dissolve? The second one is 'What’s in the vadose zone?'" he said.

"That unsaturated rock that’s underneath the tank that serves as a source of fuel, that can be released when it wants to be released, when it is released. All of those things from my view are things that reduce the chances of our ability to put Halawa Shaft back online," Kawata said.

The Halawa Shaft was shut down along with two other BWS wells following fuel contamination of the Navy’s water system at Pearl Harbor.

Board officials say low rainfall this winter coupled with the shutdown of the three wells are expected to cause water shortages this summer.

They say they are working on several parallel solutions, such as building new wells, calling for voluntary cutbacks in water usage, and preparing for possible mandatory restrictions.

Scott Kim is a news editor at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Contact him at skim@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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