Pearl Harbor Naval Base Pollutes Local Drinking Water

Perhaps you’ve heard about the Pearl Harbor naval base has polluted the local drinking water source. Somehow petroleum products have leaked into one of Oahu’s main water sources. This was just recently discovered after families and pets got sick from drinking the water. So far the source of the leak, likely underground storage tanks, has not been identified. This is the largest fresh water aquifer that serves the area.

Even though people are getting sick it appears as though the contaminant levels are below USEPA Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCL). Therefore they don’t violate federal law. Here are several of the contaminants found in Oahu’s water.

The Navy sample results from the Red Hill shaft, one of the wells that taps the aquifer, came back with 3 detections:

1.Xylene, 1.4 parts per billion (ppb) the USEPA MCL is 20 ppb
2.Napthalene, 3.8 ppb, the USEPA MCL is 17
3.TPHg (gasoline) 31 ppb, the USEPA MCL is 300.

The Red Hill shaft has been shut down for now and an attempt will be made to flush out the pollutants. In the meantime residents are on their own in terms of protecting themselves. And despite sickness the navy has been telling residents that the water is safe to drink.

Naval Base at Pearl Harbor Pollutes Local Drinking Water

‘Despite test results from the water coming back as “inconclusive” with no traces of contaminates, the Hawaii Department of Health is still advising that “all Navy water system users avoid using the water for drinking, cooking, or oral hygiene.”’

As of December 11, the Navy is still denying the leak came from underground storage tanks which have leaked in the past. They attribute the leak to a jet fuel spill of some 14,000 gallons: Navy Blames Hawaii Water Contamination on Jet Fuel Spill |

What can you do to protect yourself?

The presence of hydrocarbons in the water makes the solution complex. The water filtration system is more complex than treating normal city water. Due to the presence of hydrocarbons a sequence of filters is needed. I would suggest a 5 micron filter, followed by a good whole house water filter with catalytic carbon. That filter needs to be a downflow type with a metered valve to measure water volume. After that would be a hydrocarbon filter followed finally by a 1 micron filter.

how to remove fuel byproducts from drinking water

This photo shows the Urban Defender whole house water filter and the 5 micron pre-filter that precedes it. Contaminants include oil byproducts would be hydrocarbons that would require a specialty filter after the Urban Defender.

Because there may be contaminants present that are not regulated and therefore have not been tested for I would add reverse osmosis for drinking water. The fact that the source has not been determined and a naval base is involved other contaminants may be present.

reverse osmosis system

From what I read the extent of the contamination has yet to be determined. The fact that dozens of people (or more) have gotten sick indicates that the contaminant levels are serious, even if they are below the federal standards. However, that fact may mean that a solution will be slow in coming.

Regardless of where you live public water systems can have contaminants that are a danger to your health over the long term. There’s a substantial amount of evidence supporting this claim. It is advisable to take steps to protect your family.

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About James McMahon

Studied ecology at the University of Illinois, mountain survival at Eastern Washing University, Deep Ecology at Naropa, River Ecology with The Nature Conservancy and Luna Leopold
This entry was posted in Exposure to Toxins, Healthy Drinking Water, hydrocarbon in drinking water, Reverse Osmosis, Whole House Water Filtration and Purification and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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