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Recording history, reporting the truth & recognizing excellence.


Recording history, reporting the truth & recognizing excellence.


Red Hill water crisis two years later

Moanalua students recall struggles after being forced to relocate
Kira Kaneshiro and Jadin Washington
This timeline lists the key events related to the Red Hill water contamination issue.

This week marks the two year anniversary of the Red Hill water crisis, when jet fuel leaked into the water source that supplied residents in Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and surrounding areas. Approximately 93,000 people were impacted and were forced to move outside of base and their homes. 

The jet fuel that had been in a fire suspension line from the spill earlier that year in May of 2021. It remained there for six months until November 20, 2021. Jet fuel had mixed and contaminated the overall water source for the affected residents, causing the families and people stationed there to relocate out of their homes and leave almost everything behind. 

Among those 93,000 people who had been affected, students of Moanalua High School and their families contributed to that number.

“My mom was the one who actually found out and like, posted it on the neighborhood,” sophomore Gwendolyn Jackson said. Her mom posted the announcement on the neighborhood Facebook page about the smell of the water, and was the first one who took action to protect other people’s health.

After that post, neighbors started to test their waters, and that’s when everything started to change. Their water had been contaminated.

Jackson said that when everyone realized that the water was not safe to drink, they moved to using bottled water. Her family was forced to use a camp shower to keep themselves clean. 

“We had to like boil the freshwater we bought and then bring it up stairs,” Jackson said. This was her family’s way of having a warm shower. She described the process of getting through this water crisis as “really tiring.”

“I didn’t think much of it, I just kinda thought like ‘Oh, well, it won’t be that bad.’ But then I realized that [the jet fuel] was in everything,” junior Michael Cooper said. “Our shower, our literal drinking water, our ice too, our tap water, so we couldn’t do very much.” 

Cooper described an experiment that his dad did to test the water quality.

“He put ice in a big bowl, and then let it sit overnight, and what we found was bubbles of jet fuel,” Cooper said. “He just got a lighter and lit it on fire.”

Petroleum, used to make gasoline and fuel, is highly flammable. 

“We were like, woah, yeah we don’t want that in our body,” Cooper said after his dad conducted the experiment. 

Cooper and his family had stayed in a hotel that was located in central Honolulu for over three months. He and his family also switched over to bottled water as their form of hydration.

“We went to a hotel, and we were only allowed to stay there, I think like a week or less, and they kicked us out,” Jackson stated, this was due to the fact that the holidays were coming up and the tourists needed the hotels. 

“They kicked us out, and put us back in our contaminated water,” she said, as Jackson and her family had no choice but to go back to their home. The hotels prioritized the tourists over the displaced military members and their families. 

The military was giving out cases of water bottles depending on how many people were in your family.

“That was only in the other housing, next to ours where it was the [higher officers’] housings,” Jackson said.

Jackson said after those few weeks, her family had no choice but to return back to their housing after being required to leave the hotel.

“We got new neighbors, and apparently the housing [office] told them that the [fuel] thing was fixed, or there was no [fuel] leak to begin with so they would buy the house,” Jackson said. 

Jackson’s mom did a similar experiment to Cooper’s dad, but instead Jackson’s mom put a cup of water to the side, and the bubbles of fuel had started to separate from the water. 

After extensive remediation, the military, Department of Health and Board of Water Supply on March 18, 2022 said the water in the 19 military housing areas was safe to drink. Still wary despite the government’s assurances, Jackson and her family still use bottled water today, she said.

Over the last two years, the government has been taking steps to defuel the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, and on March 7, 2022, they received approval, although efforts didn’t start until October 16, 2023. Tanker ships are taking the fuel to storage facilities at Campbell Industrial Park and the Philippines.

As of November 19, 2023, 103.46 gallons of fuel has been removed, which equals about 99.5 percent of the main fuel tanks. All that is left to do is drain what is left of “useable” fuel that is left at the bottom of the tanks according to the military. Approval is pending to carry out the draining of the seven feet left of the tank, but it has been stated to start on December 4, 2023.

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About the Contributors
Kira Kaneshiro, Writer
Kira Kaneshiro, is a junior in her second year of News Writing. She is passionate about air rifling, and has been playing the sport since her sophomore year. In her free time she likes to listen to music, paint, and play video games with friends. She aspires to be either a nurse or a pathologist. 
Junior Jadin Washington is a first year staff writer who enjoys performing arts such as dancing and being in the schools marching band. He later hopes to become a professional choreographer and continue to perform in front of others.

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