Hawaii water supply receives $75M in EPA funding

Dec. 8, 2023
Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds may use federal funds for a treatment system that would enable the Honolulu Board of Water Supply to bring the Hālawa Shaft back into service after a Navy fuel spill.

Hawaii officials announced that the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) partnered with the U.S. EPA to secure up to $75 million for use by the Honolulu Board of Water Supply (BWS).

With the funding, BWS can resume use of its Hālawa Shaft for drinking water production.

After the November 2021 fuel spill at the Navy’s Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, BWS decided to close the Hālawa Shaft out of an abundance of caution. If test results show that the water from the Hālawa Shaft is not currently safe to drink, the federal funds can be used for a treatment system that will enable BWS to bring the Hālawa Shaft back into service, adding a resource of 10 million gallons per day (MGD).

“The BWS’ decision to raise water rates by about 50% may create a hardship for many residents. It’s important for the BWS to take advantage of available federal funding to reduce the costs it passes on to O‘ahu residents,” said Hawaii Governor Josh Green.

“While DOH monitors the Navy’s aquifer remediation efforts, these federal funds provide an opportunity to increase the supply of safe drinking water in the near term and potentially avoid the need to construct a new replacement well,” said State Health Director Dr. Kenneth Fink. “Similar treatment systems have already been installed in Mililani and at the ‘Ewa Shaft treatment facility to provide safe drinking water to Oʻahu residents.”

DOH identified potential funding through the emerging contaminants provision in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). A project is eligible for this funding if it addresses any contaminant that does not currently have a set federal minimum contaminant level (MCL) and appears on any of the Drinking Water Contaminant Candidate List (CCL). Based on what’s known about the Red Hill contaminants, this project would seem to qualify. The BIL funds are provided through 2026 and are 100% forgiven.

In addition to the reopening of the Hālawa Shaft, other BWS projects that would qualify for the federal funding opportunity. DOH’s letter to BWS is available here.

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