CM – Delay in confirmation of petroleum-containing water exposes the need for a local test site


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Test samples had to be shipped to the mainland The danger of the Navy’s fuel operations contaminating Oahu’s drinking water has been known for years, but no local, state, or federal agency has set up a laboratory during that time. that could quickly and accurately detect petroleum constituents in water samples.

The void of such a capability was felt last week when 93,000 Navy water customers – including military families and civilians – waited five days for the Navy to confirm that it was at Red Hill -Fountain oil is located from which they get their water. Water samples had to be sent to the mainland, officials said. As an insult to the injury, the Hawaii Department of Health announced Friday that four of its six water samples collected on November 29 were damaged on the way to California and could not be tested .

The ward’s inability to get instant responses on water issues that parishioners said would make them sick is « absurd, » Senator Donna Mercado Kim said at a news conference last week.

« You have so many people in the water system and you can’t test the water in time? » She said.

The warning signs were there in 2014, Kim said, when 27,000 gallons of fuel was released from a tank at the Red Hill fuel system. This event sparked outrage in the community and increased regulatory oversight, but not the creation of a laboratory.

The facility has had numerous other problems over the years. That includes a 14,000 gallon leak of fuel and water a quarter of a mile from the Red Hill Water Well, just days before people reported they were feeling sick in late November. Navy Brass is now investigating this leak, and its possible link to an earlier leak in May when 1,600 gallons of fuel burst from a pipe in the facility’s lower access tunnel.

And earlier this year, the State Department of Health’s Environmental Health Division determined that Red Hill has not shown that it can work in ways that « protect human health and the environment ». Regardless, the DOH has fined the facility over $ 325,000 for violations discovered last year.

Despite the documented issues, neither state, local, or federal facilities have invested in a lab on the island, which they are quick to do informed of contamination before it supplies water to thousands of residents. Navy Captain James Meyer admitted in a town hall on Sunday that the military’s local tests can only detect parts per million, not the parts per billion necessary to determine whether water is safe for consumption.

Navy Rear Adm. Blake Converse, deputy commandant of the US Pacific Fleet, said during a virtual town hall Thursday that a local laboratory with these capabilities was not an « inexpensive » option given the rare need for such a facility.

« Given the Frequency of these spills would suggest that having a specialized laboratory to examine and examine the water would be warranted, ”he said. « What is the alternative? The alternative is class action lawsuits brought by all the people affected by the polluted water and putting the entire hydration system for this whole island at risk. « 

Military officials are now considering opening a laboratory, but it would take time Converse said. The Hawaii Department of Health announced Wednesday that a University of Hawaii laboratory discovered a petroleum product in a sample of water from Red Hill Elementary School.

However, the amount and type of oil were unclear. The pre-test failed to produce sufficient results, according to DOH.

In a statement, DOH spokeswoman Kaitlin Arita-Chang said there are a limited number of certified laboratories across the country that perform petroleum hydrocarbon tests for diesel, oil and gas with a limit of detection of parts per billion. That’s the specificity needed to assess compliance with government environmental standards, she said.

DOH has an agreement with the University of Hawaii to provide preliminary analyzes of petroleum products, but the UH lab can’t pro-parts Recognize billion.

The department has asked the environmental protection agency for assistance in accessing additional resources, said Arita-Chang, but did not provide any details. She added that DOH would welcome further investment in its state laboratory.

The Honolulu Board of Water Supply has also been sending its water samples to the mainland for years. One of the challenges is the cost of specialized equipment, said Erwin Kawata, an ESPE program administrator. The machines cost between $ 100,000 and $ 150,000 plus annual maintenance and calibration. Additional costs include trained personnel and a specialized facility.

“It is not economically feasible for private laboratories to maintain this local service from a business perspective if the demand for these tests is insufficient to cover the cost of performing the test cover, ”he said.

For BWS, setting up our own laboratory“ is certainly something we can consider, ”he said. « But the cost of doing the analysis must be worth it. »

The results released by the Navy on Thursday evening showed the presence of xylene, naphthalene and total petroleum hydrocarbons – all constituents of fuels that can harm human health. < The Navy said levels of chemicals in their sample fell below what the DOH classified as dangerous. However, the Navy has failed to explain why, given these results, so many families have reported serious health effects such as wounds, rashes, and pain. Some people have reported being hospitalized.

Navy officials also failed to disclose exactly where the chemicals came from. The Navy and DOH say this is still under investigation.

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