Joint Statement on Petroleum Pollution in O'ahu's Potable Water and Red Hill Fuel Tanks
“Ola i ka wai – Water is life.” Fresh potable water is one of the earth’s most precious resources — vital to each individual’s health and wellbeing. Protecting our water resources is of utmost concern and should be prioritized across the country.
The Young Democrats of Hawai‘i along with our national partners at the Young Democrats of America Pacific Region and the entire Young Democrats of America organization, call on the United States Navy, at the direction of President Joseph R. Biden, to immediately relocate the fuel above the Halawa Shaft Well in Halawa, O‘ahu, and complete a comprehensive assessment of the threat this fuel has on O‘ahu’s natural resources and infrastructure, including environmental impacts, and potable water supply.
On Wednesday, December 1st, the University of Hawai‘i confirmed the presence of petroleum in water from a kitchen sink at Red Hill Elementary School. On Thursday, December 2nd, Hawai‘i News Now, through FQ Labs on O‘ahu, confirmed the presence of diesel petroleum in water from the Church of Christ of Pearl Harbor. The U.S. Navy did not confirm the presence of petroleum in the water until Thursday evening, nearly five days after the community sparked suspicion of the safety of the Navy waterline’s potable water, stemming from the Red Hill Shaft.
Members of the military, their family members, residents of Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, and surrounding communities, pleaded for accommodations from the beginning of this public health crisis. Several individuals sought urgent medical attention after distress and pain related to ingestion of the contaminated water. They reported concerns over hygiene resulting from the lack of potable water in their homes, and a plethora of other issues relating to the contamination of their water supply. Yet, the U.S. Navy was slow in response, oftentimes following the lead of the U.S. Army. On December 3rd, nearly one week after the reports of contamination, the U.S. Army and Navy then began authorizing individual procurement of alternative housing.
“Access to safe, clean water is a basic human right,” said Trish La Chica, President of the Young Democrats of Hawai‘i. “This public health crisis was preventable, and we are alarmed by the lack of urgent action from the Navy to protect the public’s water supply. We urge them to not only be accountable for their actions, but to rectify the threats to our community and our resources.”
While this disaster has mostly impacted military residents, it has foreshadowed a looming water contamination crisis for a quarter of local residents on O‘ahu. In light of the U.S. Navy’s confirmation of petroleum in the Red Hill Shaft, out of an abundance of caution, the Honolulu Board of Water Supply shut down the Halawa Well, which supplies 20 percent of the island’s water, because they share the same aquifer. This shutdown has created potential strain on the other wells servicing urban Honolulu, removing 10 million gallons of water a day, prompting the Honolulu Board of Water Supply to ask residents to conserve water use for essential purposes.
“Access to clean water is a fundamental human right. Our country has had a number of incidents in places like Flint, Michigan and Denmark, South Carolina, where communities of color have their potable water contaminated, as well as the Indigenous People whose water has been polluted by pipelines, and still to this day do not have drinkable water,” commented Young Democrats of America President Quentin Wathum-Ocama. “We cannot let the people of O‘ahu become another one of these statistics. The U.S. Navy and the Biden Administration have a responsibility to this community to make sure they can continue to maintain their health and well being.”
Without fully understanding the extent of the Red Hill Fuel Tanks’ unintended consequences, it is reckless and irresponsible to continue to use the facility as the Navy’s primary storage for fuel. By immediately emptying the tanks, a complete analysis of the fuel tanks may be initiated and environmental impacts may be observed. Residents of O‘ahu deserve to know the current effects and threats to their personal health and safety and the U.S. Navy’s action steps to prioritize the health, safety, and preservation of their home. This action would restore trust and integrity in the U.S. Navy, military, and government by acknowledging their part in creating this imminent hazard and affirming their commitment to the health and wellbeing of the residents of Hawai‘i.
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Secretary, Young Democrats of Hawai‘i
The Young Democrats of America is the largest youth-led, partisan political organization in the nation. The Young Democrats of America mobilizes young people under the age of 36 to participate in the electoral process to elect Democrats, influence the ideals of the Democratic Party, advocate for progressive issues, and train the next generation of progressive leaders. For more information, please visit www.yda.org.
The Young Democrats of Hawai‘i is the Hawai‘i chapter of the Young Democrats of America. The Young Democrats of Hawai‘i strives to increase the political strength of young Democrats in Hawai‘i by providing opportunities for civic engagement and political advocacy. For more information, please visit www.youngdemshawaii.org.