Contamination Crisis Drags On.
Honolulu – Nearly two months after tests revealed tainted water coming from the faucets at more than a half dozen public schools, health officials say it’s still not safe to use the tap.
On Thursday, Hawaii’s interim superintendent confirmed the military has started flushing systems at:
- Red Hill Elementary School
- Nimitz Elementary School
- Pearl Harbor Elementary School
- Pearl Harbor Kai Elementary School
- Iroquois Point Elementary School
- Hickam Elementary School
- and Mokulele Elementary School
The schools are all on the Navy’s water lines, which are contaminated with fuel from the Red Hill underground storage facility. There is no timeline for when the taps will be turned back on.
To get by, school staff have been hauling bottles of water into classrooms and setting up sanitation stations so students can wash their hands.
All the disruption has even the youngest keiki asking questions.
“They asked me why did they put the tanks by the water. Didn’t they know it was poison. Who is going to save the water? And how can we save the water,” said kindergarten teacher Malia Rossetti.
On Thursday afternoon, there wasn’t much in the way of answers during a Board of Education briefing.
“Water continues to be a need for the affected schools and we continue to incur costs during this crisis,” said schools interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi.
Hayashi said since Dec. 15, the Department of Education has spent $15,000 buying water. It’s still waiting on the Navy to reimburse those costs.
The military has provided some water tanks and is helping distribute bottles to classrooms.
Meanwhile, health officials continue to work with the Navy to rid the pipes of contamination.
“We’re following the protocols that the Department of Health has established in this flushing process,” said Assistant Superintendent Randy Tanaka.
“They’re doing the testing at each school. So it’s a continuum until we get to a point where the Department of Health and the Safe Water Branch say the water particulates in the system have achieved a safe level. That’s step one.”
During testimony, the head of the teachers union alongside members of the public urged the board to call for the immediate shutdown of the Red Hill fuel storage facility.
“We were hoping that the Board of Education would take a stand that the Red Hill tanks should be shut down. The facility should be shut down,” HSTA president Osa Tui said.
Because of open meetings rules, they couldn’t do that Thursday.
The chair said they will look at taking a stand at the next meeting.
The teachers union, meanwhile, will host a virtual forum Monday so lawmakers can hear concerns from faculty at the impacted schools.