"Urethane Grout Material Found in Board of Water Supply Reservoirs".

January 24, 2013

That is a quote taken from an October 10, 2012, report to the Hawaii State Department of Health's Safe Drinking Water Branch by the Honolulu Board of Water Supply(BWS).  We obtained a copy of the report from the DoH SDWB after following up on a citizen's tip that claimed "during the month of August, 2012, the drinking water in their home, located in Aina Haina, had a white film on it,  the water tasted like a chemical,  and it had a strong chemical odor."   They also expressed concern that no one ever answered their queries to the BWS or the DoH.


During our follow-up investigation into this matter we learned from various sources that they had heard unconfirmed reports that a contractor was working on one of two concrete BWS drinking water reservoirs located on or near  Ekoa Place in Aina Haina, applying a sealant to waterproof the tank.   During their work they experienced a problem with the application of the sealant to the interior surface of the tank or reservoir.  The sealant came in contact with the water in the reservoir prematurely,  contaminating the drinking water in the reservoir for a month or longer.

BWS tank similar to the one in Aina Haina


We contacted the DoH SDWB  and inquired about the allegations and also to inquire if the BWS had reported any such incident.  During our contact with the DoH SDWB we learned that an incident involving a sealant had indeed occurred at the location our citizen tipster claimed.    We also learned that the BWS  drained the impacted reservoir and had taken it offline.    The impacted reservoir, and a second one, was used to provide drinking water to approximately 1500 homes for approximately forty-five days after the sealant was introduced to the reservoir.   BWS field personal performing a routine chlorination of the reservoir observed the sealant's presence and that it and was contaminating the water in the reservoir.  


The DoH SDWB provided a copy of the report submitted to it by the BWS entitled "Urethane Grout Material Found in Board of Water Supply Reservoirs".  (See attached).


The BWS report confirms the information received from our tipster and also provides a more accurate and detailed account of what transpired at the BWS reservoir located near Ekoa Place in Aina Haina.  One example of the report's confirmation is the following quote:  "A noticeable quantity of a cellophane gel-like material floating on the water surface in the reservoir."   The reservoir contains 300,000 gallons of water.  It was also reported that another reservoir, Barber's Point #215 Reservoir No. 3, was contaminated in the same way and taken offline.   The reservoir contains 3 million gallons to serve Ewa to Makaha.

While we appreciate the DoH SWBD's willingness to provide a copy of the report, we are still awaiting a response from the BWS and the DoH SWBD regarding the failure of both agencies to report the incident to the public, especially those 1500 homes that were receiving the contaminated water in their taps.


Hawaii state law requires such a "release of contaminants into drinking water be reported to the public in a timely fashion."    We cannot find any publication of the information and we are concerned the matter was improperly handled.  The public should have been informed.

Though the toxicologist's report showed "no problems", we believe the report came too long after the fact and we are unwilling to accept the report as presented.   What if the contaminants were originally  above acceptable levels?  We also believe a timely notification to the public should have taken place.  We will provide more information as we get it.

KHON News followed up with their own story on Friday, January 25.  Link here to their story.