Red Hill meeting reveals water is safe for now, future uncertainUPDATED 10:35 PM HST Mar 07, 2014Video Transcript
Hill brings a much-dreaded revelation.... some of our drinking water is threatened with contamination. Good evening, I'm Yunji De Nies. Thanks for joining us, I'm Pamela Young in for Paula Akana. This is the first face-to-face meeting between lawmakers, water supply officials, and the Navy. The topic, front and center.. is the water safe? KITV4's Andrew Pereira was there for the high-level hearing and joins us live... Pam, Yunji... for now... Yes, the supply of drinking water is safe. In the future? Not necessarily! Navy officials opened the briefing with an assurance: The supply of drinking water near Red Hill is safe. CAPT. MIKE WILLIAMSON: "WE UNDERSTAND YOUR CONCERNS WITH THE RECENT REPORT OF POTENTIAL RELEASE AT RED HILL, AND JUST WANT TO LET YOU KNOW WE DRINK THE WATER TOO." Then came the bombshell from Gary Gill of the Health Department... fuel that's leaked from 19 or the 20 Red hill tanks over time has added up... GARY GILL: "IN 1998 IN A STUDY PRESENTED TO THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, THEY ESTIMATED THAT CUMULATIVELY UP UNTIL THAT POINT AS MUCH AS 1.2 MILLION GALLONS OF FUEL FROM THIS FACILITY MAY HAVE LEAKED." Board of Water Supply Administrator Ernest Lau said the nearby Halawa Shaft and Moanalua Wells provide 10 percent of Oahu's daily drinking water needs. ERNEST LAU: "THE GROUND WATER RESOURCES IN THIS AREA ARE BASICALLY IRREPLACEABLE. ONCE LOST TO MASSIVE CONTAMINATION, YOU WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO RECOVER IT." The Navy says the most recent 27,000 gallon leak was detected Jan. 13 after a 1/16 of an inch drop in jet fuel inside tank No. 5. However the Navy admitted the current system of measuring fuel was not designed with leak detection in mind. ANGELA WATSON: "RIGHT NOW WE DON'T NOT HAVE PER SAY A LEAK DETECTION SYSTEM INSTALLED. WE HAVE AN INVENTORY AND ACCOUNTING CONTROL SYSTEM INSTALLED." But that wasn't always the case... A source with close knowledge of Red Hill who wishes to remain anonymous tells KITV4 military bureaucracy allowed a more accurate approach to leak detection to fall to the wayside. In February, 2002 the source emailed a commander in charge of Red Hill fuel monitoring about military decision makers, saying quote ... "I am personally so disenchanted with the lack of technical professionalism, bias, non- objective analysis, nonaccountability of actions, CYA decisions..." and added "... they do not make me proud!" The Navy has contracted a private company to model how petroleum products may move into basalt rock underneath the Red Hill tank farm and possibly threaten water supplies. The Navy, Department of Health and the Board of Water Supply also continue regular testing of five ground water monitoring wells. But it appears mitigation measures MAY be inevitable to ensure that 14 to 16 million gallons of daily drinking water remains safe. ERNEST LAU: "IT IS OF UTMOST IMPORTANCE THAT WE PREVENT THE CONTAMINATION OF THE DRINKING WATER SOURCE, EVEN IF IT REQUIRES RETORFIT OF THESE TANKS." SEN. MIKE GABBARD: "IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT THE 27,000 GALLONS THAT LEAKED ON JAN. 13, BUT IT'S WHAT'S GONE ON IN THE PAST AND WHAT WE CAN DO AS A STATE TO MAKE SURE THIS DOESN'T HAPPEN AGAIN." The Navy says 15 of the tanks are currently in use, and another three are undergoing regular maintenance. Two tanks have been taken out of operation completely. State lawmakers are trying to win assurances from the Navy that if cleanup measures are needed, Oahu taxpayers won't be the ones picking up the tab. Yunji?