White House tackles Hawaii water crisis

The White House is offering to provide federal aid as Hawaii grapples with a water contamination crisis at the Pearl Harbor Navy base, according to a senior Democratic senator.

Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii in a Tweeter revealed he spoke with White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain and Homeland Security Advisor Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall about the situation in Oahu, where fuel contaminates water needed for water needs drinking water from the Navy.

“I have requested the support of the Biden administration for all federal resources available to the state and affected residents, including the mobilization of the EPA and all relevant federal agencies,” Schatz wrote.

The White House did not immediately verify or comment on the senator’s tweet.

Hawaii is grappling with the emerging crisis and on Friday the Honolulu water company shut down one of its wells so as not to alter its own supply of oil from an underground aquifer it shares with the army (Green wire, December 6).

The problem is the Red Hill Fuel Facility, a World War II underground stockpile containing around 110 million gallons of oil, which supplies fuel to Naval Station Pearl Harbor in Oahu and has experienced numerous leaks during of the last decades. The facility is a vital part of U.S. Army operations in the Pacific, with a total capacity of 250 million gallons.

Earlier this month, more than 100 residents of Base Pearl Harbor complained of fuel smells emanating from tap water. In response, the military told base residents not to drink the water (Green wire, 1st December).

Marine disclosed Thursday that a water sample from one of its wells had shown the presence of oil near the complex of fuel tanks. The Navy said it was developing a plan to restore the drinking water system to EPA standards, identify how this contaminant got into the well and possibly repair the well.

The base is one of the most important military installations, housing submarines, ships and the commander of US forces in the Indo-Pacific region. The crisis is also endangering Honolulu’s most important aquifers and water sources.

Almost 1,000 military households have complained about the smell of tap water or physical ailments such as stomach cramps and vomiting. The Navy’s water supply system serves 93,000 people.

Last week, Hawaii’s Democratic Representative Kai Kahele blasted the military response to what he called a “disaster of astronomical proportions” during a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing (Daily E&E, December 3).

“The Navy does not appear to be at all prepared for this situation which is now having an impact on its own soldiers and their families,” he told the readiness subcommittee. “What is happening on the ground in Hawaii right now is absolutely unacceptable.”

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