High levels of diesel found at Tripler well


HONOLULU — High levels of diesel have been detected at a Tripler Army Medical Center monitoring well on Oahu, the state Department of Health said.

State Deputy Health Director Gary Gill told a Honolulu City Council committee on Wednesday that the Navy notified him about the contaminant last week.

Preliminary findings showed 790 and 660 micrograms per liter, above the Health Department’s “environmental action level” of 100 micrograms, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

The discovery comes months after the Navy said an underground storage tank at nearby Red Hill leaked up to 27,000 gallons of jet fuel. The cause of the leak has not yet been determined. It’s also not clear whether the Red Hill and Tripler contamination cases are related.

Board of Water Supply manager Ernest Lau told the committee that the agency’s five wells nearby show no sign of contamination. Wells in the area supply water from Halawa to Hawaii Kai, about one-quarter of the Board of Water Supply system, Lau said.

“This is the Moanalua aquifer from which we draw drinking water with very little treatment except chlorination,” Lau said. Installing treatment features at the wells could cost an estimated $50 million and take five to seven years, he said.

Lau wants the Navy to install more monitoring wells, and increase testing and sampling to define the extent of the fuel contamination of groundwater in the area, and, if necessary, remediate any contamination that may exist.

Tripler itself may be the source of the diesel contamination, Gill said, noting that a landfill and gasoline stations were once on the grounds.

“Either one is not good news,” Gill said, adding that the Tripler monitoring well is about half of the 1.3-mile distance between the fuel tank facility and the Board of Water Supply’s Moanalua wells.

The Public Works and Sustainability Committee on Wednesday advanced a resolution calling on the Health Department to press the Navy to work expeditiously to mitigate any potential adverse effects from leaks or spills originating from the fuel storage facility.

The World War II-era facility provides fuel for ships and aircraft at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam about 2.5 miles away.