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“Fight of Our Generation”: Hawaiʻi Residents, Allies Rally Behind the Honolulu BWS

Updated: Dec 12, 2022

Originally shared from Oʻahu Water Protectors and Sierra Club of Hawai‘i:


Contact: Healani Sonoda-Pale, (808)372-2512, healanipale@gmail.com

Wayne Tanaka, (808)490-8579, wayne.tanaka@sierraclub.org


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 10, 2022


“Fight of Our Generation”: Hawaiʻi Residents, Allies Rally Behind the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, March to U.S. Navy Offices

In the wake of a 1,300 gallon spill of extremely toxic “forever chemicals” from the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, water protectors took a “Walk for Wai” in support of the Honolulu Board of Water Supply’s demands for the U.S. Navy to stop harming Oʻahu’s groundwater


PUʻULOA, HAWAIʻI – Hundreds of people took to the streets today in a “Walk for Wai,” marching from Keʻehi Lagoon Beach Park to the local Navy Facilities Engineering Systems Command Headquarters, in support of the Honolulu Board of Water Supply (HBWS).


For years, the HBWS had requested transparency, accountability and immediate action to prevent any further contamination of the island of Oʻahu’s EPA Region IX Sole-Source Aquifer from the U.S. Navy’s WWII-era Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility.


In a live press conference responding to the November 29, 2022 spill of 1,300 gallons of extremely toxic aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) concentrate at the facility, the HBWS’ Chief Engineer Ernest Lau broke down in tears – and declared that the agency’s requests had now become demands.


After watching the conference, Malia Marquez of Maunalua knew it was time for a mass mobilization action. “For years, Ernie Lau has done everything in his power to keep our water safe, to keep our childrenm our keiki safe from this decrepit Navy facility, and I felt deep down that we had to answer his call,” she explained. “The U.S. Navy made this dedicated public servant, this humble, quiet, selfless man cry with their callous attitude, their horrifying negligence. That was a big, big mistake.”


Marquez shared her vision with the Oʻahu Water Protectors, which quickly began working with her and a multitude of other organizations, including the Hawaiʻi People’s Fund, the Hawaiʻi Youth Climate Coalition, Queen’s Court and the Sierra Club of Hawai‘i, to organize today’s “Walk for Wai.”


“For 50 years, the Hawai‘i People’s Fund has sought to empower the people of Hawai‘i to stand up against the systems that oppress them. The poisoning of not just our drinking water, but the drinking water of our children, of our grandchildren’s grandchildren – that’s not just oppression, that is genocide,” said Micky Huihui, executive director of the Hawai‘i People’s Fund, which helped provide emergency funding for the event. “There is absolutely no way we – or any organization or person that calls Hawai‘i home – can sit this fight out.”


The Red Hill facility, located underground and just 100 feet above the principle drinking water supply for Hawai‘i’s most populous island, has leaked a conservative estimate of 200,000 gallons of military-grade jet fuel and diesel since its first recorded spill in 1947. Fuel from a November 20, 2021 fuel release entered a Navy water well serving 93,000 people, along with schools, businesses and other consumers on the Navy’s water system; thousands of military and civilian families were poisoned, with many still suffering from long term health effects.


In order to prevent the contamination of the municipal water system, the HBWS was also forced to shut down major area wells, including the “Hālawa Shaft,” which served 400,000 residents in a region including downtown Honolulu, Waikīkī and Maunalua. The added strain now placed on other, smaller wells means that the entire island of O‘ahu may be facing water conservation restrictions or mandates over the next several years.


The latest AFFF spill, which occurred just over one year later, includes PFAS, or “forever chemicals” known to cause cancer, thyroid disease, reproductive issues and other serious health effects at extremely minute quantities. Interim EPA guidelines for the most-studied types of PFAS place “safe” levels for PFAS in drinking water at parts per quadrillion – equivalent to less than one drop in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools.


PFAS also do not break down naturally, meaning that any spilled PFAS not immediately contained and captured could migrate through the environment for centuries.


“There is still 104 million gallons of fuel in Kapūkakī – Red Hill – threatening to destroy our aquifer and wreck life as we know it here on Oʻahu and throughout Hawaiʻi. We know there is no climate resilient Hawai‘i without water. We know there is no future without wai,” said Dyson Chee, director of the Hawai‘i Youth Climate Coalition (using the ‘Ōlelo Hawaiʻi, or Hawaiian language, word for water). “And now we have to worry about these forever chemicals moving around in the soil, in our groundwater and in plants and animals that can bioaccumulate these PFAS – for the rest of our lives.”


Healani Sonoda-Pale, community organizer with the Oʻahu Water Protectors and Queen’s Court, noted that Hawai‘i is now just another example in a long list of places impacted by military PFAS contamination. “People throughout Oceania and all across the continent are finding elevated levels of PFAS in their drinking water, in their fish, in their blood – nearly all sourced to Department of Defense facilities,” she said. “We have CHamoru who flew in from Guåhan, Okinawans marching shoulder to shoulder with us today because they know what it’s like, to have this liquid cancer contaminating their homelands. . . . To think that we may be witnessing the U.S. military poison children who will be born after we have passed on – after we have become ancestors.”


“We have to stop this insanity, this multi-generational crisis, from getting any worse. We have to shut down Red Hill before we witness our island, our home, our future get destroyed on our watch. This is the fight of our generation.”


To view the December 6 emergency HBWS briefing on the latest AFFF spill, see this recording here.


To view a webinar with nationally recognized experts on the dangers of PFAS and current implications for O‘ahu’s communities and environment, see this recording here.


Hawai‘i residents are urged to contact their Congressional delegation to demand emergency action to contain and capture the AFFF spill to the extent possible; they can do so using the Sierra Club of Hawai‘i’s e-mail action web page here.


Residents in other jurisdictions can also contact their own Congressional delegates using the Sierra Club National’s web page here.


Organizations supporting today’s Walk for Wai:


350Hawaii

ʻAhahui o Nā Kauka

ʻĀina Aloha Economic Futures

ACLU of Hawaiʻi

Af3irm Hawaiʻi

Aloha ʻĀina Legal Group

Aloha Tree Alliance

Americans for Democratic Action – Hawaiʻi Chapter

Chamber of Sustainable Commerce

Conservation Council for Hawaiʻi

Da Hui o He‘e Nalu

Davis Levin Livingston

ʻEkolu Mea Nui

Environmental Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaiʻi

Environmental Justice Club at the University of Hawaiʻi-Mānoa

Faith Action for Community Equity

Hawaiʻi Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines

Hawaiʻi Okinawa Alliance

Hawaiʻi Organic Farmers Association

Hawai‘i Peace and Justice

Hawaiʻi People’s Fund

Hawaiʻi Worker’s Center

Hawaiʻi Youth Climate Coalition

Hoʻōla Hou iā Kalauao

Honolulu Tenants Union

Iyengar Yoga Honolulu

Just Well Law

KĀHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance

Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi

Ka ʻOhana o ke Aloha

Kaʻohewai

Kanaeokana

King Kamehameha Hawaiian Civic Club

Ko'olau Waialua Alliance

Kuaʻāina Ulu ʻAuamo

Lāhui Foundation

Laulima Hawaiʻi

Livable Honolulu

Mālama i ka Wai

Mālama Mākua

Mauna Medics

Nā Kiaʻi

Oʻahu Water Protectors

Office of Hawaiian Affairs

Our Revolution Hawaiʻi

Pacific Justice and Reconciliation Center

Peace, Justice, and Stewardship of Creation Mission Team, Church of the Crossroads. Pōʻai Ke Aloha ‘Āina

Protect Our Aquifer

Prutehi Litekyan Save Ritidian

Purple Maiʻa Foundation

Pu‘uhonua o Wailupe

Queen’s Court

Shimanchu Wai Protectors

Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Hawaiʻi

Shut Down Red Hill Coalition

Shut Down Red Hill Mutual Aid

Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi

Surfrider Foundation

Sustainable Coastlines Hawai‘i

travel2change

United Nations Global Indigenous Youth Caucus

Veterans For Peace Chapter 113 - Hawaiʻi

Wai Ola Alliance

Waiʻanae Moku Kūpuna Council

Waialua Hawaiian Civic Club

Water Protector Legal Collective

Wisdom Circles Oceania

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