After testing revealed Petroleum compounds in one of the Navy’s wells, the Hawaii Department of Health issued an emergency order on Tuesday, directing the Navy to take further action to fix its water system. The directive comes just one day after Navy authorities at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam announced that a massive fuel tank farm near the polluted water well would be shut down.
The emergency order also directs the Navy to take immediate efforts to build water treatment equipment at the site’s shaft, which is positioned 100 feet above an aquifer that feeds water to the Navy’s water system. The Navy was also asked by the state’s health agency to provide a work plan and an implementation timeline for properly removing the fuel from Red Hill’s storage tanks and assessing its operations within 30 days.
Following complaints from surrounding homes that their water smelled like fuel, the Navy turned off its water supply on November 28. Testing revealed that a water sample from the Red Hill well, which draws water from the Moanalua-Waimalu aquifer, had Petroleum hydrocarbons and hydrocarbon fumes many days later. Petroleum hydrocarbons are “a vast family of several hundred chemical compounds generated from crude oil,” according to the EPA.
It’s unclear what type of Petroleum products were found or how they entered the system. The fuel storage facility has experienced multiple fuel leaks over the years, including one in November, but the Navy said there were “no evidence or indications of any environmental releases.” According to the Associated Press, anyone who use the Navy’s water system — which includes 93,000 inhabitants living in and near Pearl Harbor — should avoid drinking, cooking, or dental hygiene, as well as bathing, washing dishes, and laundry if the water smells like fuel.