UH dashboard provides public, officials with water crisis data
UH News, August 2, 2022 (removed from UH website shortly after being posted)
The University of Hawaiʻi Red Hill Task Force has launched a Tap Water Screening Dashboard that displays data on potential fuel-based contaminants in water screened by UH experts. The dashboard provides visual maps and graphs used for screening analyses as well as downloadable data for public use. University researchers formed the task force in response to the contamination of the drinking water supply from the Red Hill shaft on Oʻahu in December 2021.
The interactive dashboard provides residents and the public with relevant information about possible areas of contamination and allows users to track water sample findings over time. The research is intended to help community members better understand the quality of their tap water, allows for open and transparent knowledge exchange and aids in communication between UH researchers and the communities they serve.
The UH Mānoa Water Resources Research Center (WRRC) serves as the central hub for communication and coordination of research activities of the UH Red Hill Task Force. The WRRC analytical laboratory is leading water quality analysis and method development, and is coordinating the sampling and analysis with partners at Leeward Community Collegeand the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education at UH Mānoa.
“Our research fills a critical analytical capacity gap in the state of Hawaiʻi to identify, quantify and screen for contaminants including petroleum hydrocarbons,” said Tom Giambelluca, WRRC Director. “Currently, the existing monitoring framework in Hawaiʻi in response to the Red Hill water crisis relies on off-island analysis of water samples for fuel detection with turnaround times of up to four weeks.”
Giambelluca says the method used by the UH task force can rapidly screen large numbers of samples at low cost and results are ready within a few days of sampling.
“This rapid turnaround time for sample collection, laboratory analysis and reporting of results to the community and regulatory agencies enables faster response to the contamination crisis and can also trigger actions to safeguard public and environmental health and the integrity of drinking water and environmental resources,” said Giambelluca.
Some of the main findings from the screening are the potential detection of low concentrations of chemicals that are typically found in fuel in a small percentage of the samples collected from the Navy water supply. The UH task force researchers have been analyzing donated samples since November, 2021 and collecting samples since February and have not had any positive detections in tap waters supplied by non-Navy wells operated by the Honolulu Board of Water Supply.
“The contaminant screening research that UH is leading is an essential first step in understanding the scope and direction of the Red Hill spill,” said Giambelluca. “Our research findings can potentially lead to enhanced understanding of how jet fuel is moving underground across space and time, how the components of the fuel are changing and interacting with the environment, and how the contamination impacts the environment and public health over time. Understanding the spatial and temporal patterns of the contamination can lead to identification and understanding of the underlying processes that are driving these patterns.”
Fluorescence spectroscopy was used to screen for potential fuel contamination in the community water samples. UH’s technique employs a fluorescence approach to rapidly screen a large number of samples for potential contamination, taking as little as 5 minutes per sample. The method can be used to flag samples with trace concentrations of dissolved contaminants, as low as 10 parts per billion diesel fuel. For comparison, the Hawaiʻi Department of Health set a screening level at 211 parts per billion for Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons in drinking water. This risk-based concentration was based on Red Hill incident specific parameters used by the DOH to assess the safety of the drinking water.
While the fluorescence approach is designed as a preliminary screen (compared to the detailed analytical scrutiny by EPA-certified labs on the U.S. continent), the research enables proactive coordination and communication with regulatory agencies to help ensure the continued delivery of safe and clean drinking water. Fluorescence-based methods may detect one or more chemicals present in diesel fuel, but do not provide information on their identity. For positive detections, the task force recommends follow-up detailed testing by a certified lab that can identify specific regulated toxins.
Visit the UH Red Hill data dashboard for more information.
CB: UH Task Force Detects Fuel In Navy Water After It Was Deemed Safe
HNN: UH releases concerning water data from Red Hill crisis then abruptly takes it down
SA: New Red Hill water data needs follow-up testing, University of Hawaii says