The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Oct. 19—The Navy has repaired two of four water mains that broke since Friday, though the first and largest one to crack remains unfixed.
The Navy has repaired two of four water mains that broke since Friday, though the first and largest one to crack remains unfixed.
Repairs are “on schedule ” to be finished by Tuesday, give or take a day, Capt. Mark Sohaney, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam commander, said Tuesday at a news conference at the base. Meanwhile, the Navy is still urging residents to boil their water, although the Army lifted its advisory Monday.
The Army was able to fix the problem with “inline water filtration, ” which the Navy does not have. Lt. Col. Jamie Dobson, a spokesperson for the Army, said the Army’s “granular activated carbon filtration systems ” are essentially “industrial-strength Brita filters.” The broken mains disrupted water access for 93, 000 residents living in and around JBPHH.
While Navy child development centers remained closed Tuesday due to the breaks, Sohaney said he anticipates having a plan to reopen centers today.
Additionally, the Navy’s plan to remove fuel from its three pipelines at Red Hill remains postponed until the water system is restored. Before the first main break occurred, the Navy had planned to begin draining approximately 1 million gallons of fuel from pipes at its Red Hill Bulk Fuel Facility on Monday. The fuel has sat in the pipelines since operations at the underground facility near Pearl Harbor were halted in 2021 when fuel from Red Hill contaminated the Navy’s drinking water system.
The cause of the first main break—in a 36-inch main at the Waiau Hawaiian Electric power station, built in 1951—remains unknown. The likeliest factor is age, said Chuck Anthony, JBPHH’s director of public affairs, in an interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
The Navy’s response touched off smaller breaks. “When that break occurred on Friday, I had to divert water to the west side of the base, and those lines are a little bit smaller, ” Sohaney said, noting that he anticipated the diversion would increase the system’s pressure and risk a break. Mains that broke at West Loch and on Pearl City Peninsula, which flooded a nearby neighborhood, are now repaired, he said.
A main break caused by a car accident Friday was isolated that day and is now “not really an issue, ” Anthony said. The Navy connected its water network at Radford Terrace to the Honolulu Board of Water Supply’s network Tuesday morning. “This just introduces more water into the system and provides us a little bit more stability, ” Sohaney said.
To couple the two systems, the BWS first had to install a meter and success-fully test a “backflow preventer, ” BWS Public Information Officer Kathleen Pahinui said in an interview. By 3 p.m. the Navy had already drawn 700, 000 gallons. “We believe that we can supply them for a few days without it negatively impacting our customers. We are monitoring it, ” Pahinui said. The Navy will pay for its water use, she said.
At the news conference, Sohaney directed some comments to affected water users : “I know this is challeng-ing, it’s frustrating, it’s inconvenient and I sympathize with that. And I just want you to know that we’re doing everything in our power, ” he said. “It’s like open-heart surgery. It’s a complicated site, it’s a complicated repair.”
Further, he said, “I need you to reach out, keep me informed and call my emergency operations center, post something on Facebook, let us know what we can do.”
On the Facebook support group site, scores of individuals on the water system Tuesday reported concerns ranging from recent rashes and hair loss to oil sheen in their tap water.
Some of the concerns were similar to those that surfaced in November, when residents living in neighborhoods around the joint base began complaining of nausea, vomiting and skin rashes, as well as fuel smells coming from their faucets and sprinklers. Shortly thereafter, water samples and a visual inspection of the Red Hill shaft found it was polluted with jet fuel. Sohaney said the Navy is testing for water contamination, “and there are no indications in our latest test results.”
Cmdr. Rob Kleinman, a Joint Base public works officer, encouraged water consumers to report any adverse effects to a medical provider. “If there’s any linkage, please let us know, ” Kleinman said. Doing so allows the Navy to learn from the reported incidents, he said.
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