Navy suspends use of military tank farm above Hawaii aquifer


HONOLULU (AP) — The U.S. Navy announced Monday that it has suspended use of World War II-era fuel tank farm above a Hawaii aquifer that supplies nearly 20% of Honolulu’s drinking water.

Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro made the announcement during a briefing with reporters at Pearl Harbor after problems surfaced about two weeks ago on and near the base.

Nearly 1,000 military households have complained that their tap water smells like fuel and some have also complained that they have suffered physical ailments such as cramps and vomiting.

A water sample returned last week showed the presence of petroleum. The well is near the underground fuel tank complex that has been the source of multiple fuel leaks over the years.

Fuel from the tanks is used to power many U.S. military ships and planes that patrol the Pacific Ocean.

The announcement came after Hawaii’s governor and congressional delegation called on the Navy to suspend operations at the tank farm fuel tank farm that sits above an aquifer that supplies water to urban Honolulu.

Rear Admiral Blake Converse, deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said that the use of the tank farm was suspended on Nov. 27 but officials did not say why the Navy waited until Monday to make that announcement.

The Navy’s water system serves about 93,000 people. 

The Navy said it would flush clean water through the distribution system to clear residual petroleum products from the water. The process, along with testing, could take up to 10 days to make sure the water meets Environmental Protection Agency drinking standards.

The Navy also pledged to investigate how contaminates got into the well and to fix the problem.

The tap water problems have afflicted one of the military’s most important bases, home to submarines, ships and the commander of U.S. forces in the Indo-Pacific region. They also threaten to jeopardize one of Honolulu’s most important aquifers and water sources.

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