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Board of Water Supply Chief Engineer Ernie Lau on Red Hill closure and water pumping concerns

Ernest Ernie Lau Honolulu Board of Water Supply 120321
Jason Ubay
Board of Water Supply Manager and Chief Engineer Ernest "Ernie" Lau at a press conference about the contaminated Navy water system on Dec. 3, 2021.

The Pentagon's announcement that it would defuel and close the Red Hill underground fuel tanks was a win for Board of Water Supply Chief Engineer Ernie Lau and the Sierra Club. They've long advocated for protecting Oʻahu's valuable water resources. But there would be little time to savor the monumental decision before regular testing revealed a chemical change in water, potentially affecting urban Honolulu users.

A drier-than-normal rainy season is producing higher levels of chloride, indicating the supply in Honolulu could be getting saltier. Lau explained that the reduced draw from the aquifer and less rain are the causes. The BWS is also asking residents across Honolulu, particularly in the Halawa and ʻAiea areas, to reduce usage by 10%.

This interview aired on The Conversation on March 11, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at
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