Welcome to the
Tap Water Screening Dashboard


University of Hawaiʻi Red Hill Task Force

The Task Force screens for potential fuel contamination in community water samples on Oʻahu using fluorescence spectroscopy. Results will be updated here as data become available.


Use this dashboard to:

  • View screening results
  • Visualize spatial and temporal trends
  • Download data


Note: Data presented on this Dashboard were not generated using certified methods approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and are not equivalent to data generated by the Navy and the Hawaiʻi Department of Health (DOH). They are not intended for assessing health risk.


Mission

To serve the State of Hawaiʻi’s communities through research, method development, data, and education. To collaborate with the Hawaiʻi Department of Health and the Navy by sharing data, results, and expertise. To present relevant information to the public that is accessible and transparent.


Goals

  • Rapidly screen samples of tap water for potential contamination in Oʻahu communities
  • Identify geographic regions of potential contamination concern
  • Enhance capacity for on-island testing using both novel and standard methods
  • Identify social impacts of water contamination
  • Provide a platform for the exchange of scientific data


Findings

To date, there have been no positive detections of fuel in waters supplied by non-Navy wells (operated by the Board of Water Supply). However, through May 2022, we observed fluorescence spectra resembling low concentrations of JP-5 fuel in a small percentage of samples collected from Navy water supply. The assumption is that positive screening detection of potential JP5 fluorescence are residual contaminants from the fuel released into the Red Hill Shaft and distributed through the Navy drinking water system.

This is an ongoing project and is intended as a research tool to identify potential areas of concern. The dashboard, and data presented within, are not for regulatory or compliance purposes.




Most Recent Sample: July 12, 2022

The University of Hawaiʻi Red Hill Task Force was formed in December 2021 following the confirmation of contamination in drinking water supplied from the Red Hill Shaft. The Task Force is coordinated through the Water Resources Research Center and consists of faculty, staff, and students from UH-Mānoa (UHM) and Leeward Community College (LCC), independent scientists, and trained community volunteers.

This dashboard is developed and maintained by Sean Swift, a doctoral student in the UHM Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE).

UH WRRC










Controls:

(The plots and map will update)

Hide Board of Water Supply

This dashboard shows data from tap water samples that were screened for fuel contamination. You control which samples are displayed

Results By Region


We report the screening results by general region (e.g. Hickam). The interactive map above shows the different regions. The dot plot below shows each sample that was screened. The samples are separated by the region where they were collected and the collection date.

Each row represents a region and each dot represents a sample. As you move from left to right, the samples go from oldest to newest. A gray dot represent a negative screening result. Yellow indicates a possible detection and red indicates a positive detection.




In addition to looking at screening results over time, we can look at the total number of samples screened in each region. The bar graphs below count the total number samples in each region. The counts are colored based on the screening result. Use the dashboard controls to generate summaries for specific regions and time periods.



Totals Across Regions

The bar graphs below show the total number of samples taken each month across regions. This plot shows how our sampling effort changes over time.

Because our sampling is based on community submissions, the number of samples we screen varies month to month. There are lots of reasons why our sample counts can go up or down. The number of positive detections we see may depend on who has been submitting samples.

It’s helpful to know how many possible and positive detections we’re seeing across the entire project. To be confident in our results, we will need to screen a large number of samples. If we stop seeing positive and possible detections as time goes on, that’s probably a good sign.


We can also use the results to calculate a ‘Positivity Rate.’ This is similar in concept to a COVID positivity rate. Take the by the number of positive and possible detections and divide by the total number of samples screened.

Remember, this rate will be biased based on who is submitting samples and from what regions. For example, a 5% positivity rate doesn’t mean that 5% of all households have fuel in their water. It just means that 5% of the samples we screened detected something.



Learn more about this project and the scientific ideas and methods behind it:



Most Recent Sample: July 12, 2022

The University of Hawaiʻi Red Hill Task Force was formed in December 2021 following the confirmation of contamination in drinking water supplied from the Red Hill Shaft. The Task Force is coordinated through the Water Resources Research Center and consists of faculty, staff, and students from UH-Mānoa (UHM) and Leeward Community College (LCC), independent scientists, and trained community volunteers.

This dashboard is developed and maintained by Sean Swift, a doctoral student in the UHM Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE).

UH WRRC

Data Transparency

This project is community driven. We are committed to making all screening data publically available. You can view the data and download a copy for yourself. This table shows the raw data that is visualized on the map and in the plots. To protect the privacy of those who submitted samples, we only indicate the region where the sample was collected. You can sort the by column or search for specific samples or regions using the search bar. The dashboard controls change what data is being displayed and downloaded.

Download Data Spreadsheet



Most Recent Sample: July 12, 2022

The University of Hawaiʻi Red Hill Task Force was formed in December 2021 following the confirmation of contamination in drinking water supplied from the Red Hill Shaft. The Task Force is coordinated through the Water Resources Research Center and consists of faculty, staff, and students from UH-Mānoa (UHM) and Leeward Community College (LCC), independent scientists, and trained community volunteers.

This dashboard is developed and maintained by Sean Swift, a doctoral student in the UHM Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE).

UH WRRC

Contact

We welcome your feedback, questions, and comments.

We can be reached at redhill@hawaii.edu or redhillreport@proton.me

Please note that these email addresses are not continuously monitored. If you have not heard back within 3 business days, please send a follow-up.

Submitting Samples

We will continue to accept and screen community samples for the purposes of research and method development. These screenings are provided free of charge by the University of Hawai’i. We may not be able to screen all samples and will select samples to screen based on our research priorities below:

  • Continued monitoring of households that have had positive detections in the past
  • New households that have qualitative evidence of fuel contamination (e.g. oil sheen, smell, sickness)
  • Balanced sampling across impacted regions
  • Recommendation of further analytical testing from DOH


Submit a water screening request

Project FAQs

Who we are

The University of Hawaiʻi Red Hill Task Force was formed in December 2021 following the confirmation of contamination in drinking water supplied from the Red Hill Shaft. The Task Force is coordinated through the Water Resources Research Center and consists of faculty, staff, and students from UH-Mānoa (UHM) and Leeward Community College (LCC), independent scientists, and trained community volunteers.

Why is the University of Hawaiʻi screening tap water samples?

The initial motivation behind the University’s involvement was to explore the capability of currently available instruments to characterize the contamination initially reported by concerned residents.

Fluorescence spectroscopy was identified as the best among the screening tools, as it allows a large number of samples to be analyzed rapidly and inexpensively with high sensitivity. Due to sustained interest from the community, the UH Red Hill Task Force continues to use fluorescence spectroscopy to screen tap water samples, and regularly collects water samples.

How is the UH Red Hill Task Force funded?

At first, members of the Red Hill Task Force participated voluntarily in addition to their regular duties. However, as the severity and extent of the Red Hill crisis unfolded, the need for financial support for research and innovation to ensure clean water for the present and future became apparent.

We are actively seeking funding from multiple sources including the responsible party (i.e., the Department of Defense (DoD) through the Office of Naval Research (ONR)). This will support a variety of projects related to water security in the State of Hawaiʻi and the US Affiliated Pacific Islands.

As is the case with all sponsored research at the University of Hawaiʻi, we maintain intellectual independence and the control of research direction and release of results.

Current UH Funding

To date, UHM has received funding from the DoD to upgrade and purchase analytical instruments. UHM also houses and independently operates an analytical system purchased by Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center primarily for the purpose of providing neutral third party screening capability for Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in groundwater.

What is the purpose of the Tap Water Screening Dashboard?

The main purpose of the Dashboard is to present UH-generated screening data in an easily accessible and transparent manner and to provide the background necessary for the public to understand and interpret this data. Additionally, the dashboard provides regulators, scientists, and stakeholders an interactive visualization tool that can be used to analyze patterns.

What are the expected outcomes of the research and future directions?

We believe rapid screening methods fill a current gap in the islands due to the lack of local analytical testing facilities certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Fluorescence spectroscopy potentially allows for far greater sampling coverage that is not feasible for samples shipped to mainland labs. Additionally, it can do so at a significantly reduced cost with a faster turnaround time.

The screening data can be used to identify regions of concern that could benefit from additional analysis, as well as to monitor for potential movement of the contaminants which can serve as a precautionary early warning system. The data also contribute to the increasing body of evidence in academia demonstrating the utility of fluorescence spectroscopy.

The analysis of spatially-explicit and temporal patterns from the Dashboard can enable better tracking of contamination, allow analyses of trends and impacts to environment/public health over time, and enhance understanding of well-being and lived experiences of people impacted by the contamination event.

How are the data generated?

Since February 2, 2022, all screening samples were collected by a member of the Task Force or UHM/LCC students following Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). The samples are analyzed at UHM. The measured fluorescence is normalized to the background fluorescence of the sample and qualitatively scored. For more detail, please visit our Science FAQs (Menu > Science FAQs). Screening data is aggregated by general location before posting to the Dashboard.

What does No Detection mean?

Components of JP-5 produce fluorescence in a characteristic region, so if there’s no fluorescence in that region, it is scored as 'No Detection'. 'No Detection' does not imply that there are no contaminants in the water. This method is unable to detect biological contaminants (e.g. biofilms). We also cannot detect chemical compounds that are present in JP-5 but do not fluoresce. See the Science FAQ for more information.

If I get a positive detection or a potential detection, what should I do?

For positive or possible detections, we recommend follow-up detailed testing by a certified lab that can identify specific regulated toxins. UH is currently working on enhancing our testing capacity. We are also working with the DOH to establish a workflow for follow up testing of community water samples with positive detects.

Science FAQs

What are hydrocarbons?

Hydrocarbons are a class of organic compounds that are made up of exclusively hydrogen and carbon atoms. Petroleum based fuels are mostly composed of hydrocarbons. Through a process called fractional distillation, crude oil is refined into different types of fuels based on molecular weight and boiling point. In other words, each type of petroleum fuel contains a different fraction of crude oil.

Although they have been refined, fuels are still complex mixtures that may contain hundreds to thousands of different compounds. It is common to have overlap between the fractions in different fuels. For example, the military grade jet fuel, JP-5, primarily consists of hydrocarbons with approximately 6 to 16 carbons, or C6-C16 for short. In comparison, gasoline consists primarily of C5-C10, and diesel C14-C20.

What is fluorescence analysis?

Fluorescence spectroscopy detects chemical compounds using precise measurements of light. A fluorescent compound will absorb energy from light and emit it as light of a different color. UH researchers use a Horiba Aqualog to generate Excitation Emission Matrices, by shining a light across a range of wavelengths (i.e. colors) and measuring the light produced across another range of wavelengths. Examples of Excitation Emission Matrices generated by UH are shown in Figure 1.

Examples of fluorescence observed in the JP-5 standard and community water samples:

Fluorescence Example

Why are we using fluorescence analysis?

We use fluorescence spectroscopy to quickly detect fluorescent compounds in water. In this case, we are interested in detecting petroleum hydrocarbons, some of which are highly fluorescent and present in the JP-5 fuel spilled at the Red Hill facility. Because these compounds can produce a lot of fluorescence, they are easy to detect at low concentrations. These compounds also fluoresce with a very specific signature, therefore they are relatively easy to distinguish from other background fluorescence sources.

What can fluorescence analysis tell us?

Fluorescence spectroscopy can be used to rapidly screen a large number of samples for potential contamination with a low detection limit equivalent to 10 ppb (part per billion, or micrograms per liter) of JP-5. For comparison, the Hawaiʻi Department of Health (DOH) set Red Hill incident specific parameters (ISPs) for Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH) in drinking water at 211 ppb. Sample concentrations below this threshold are assumed to not pose a significant threat to human health or environment.

When petroleum hydrocarbons are hit with UV light (wavelength of ~270 nanometers) they emit deep violet light (wavelengths of ~320 nm). This is similar to the way certain compounds will fluoresce under a UV blacklight. The machine tells us how bright the fluorescence is, which allows us to detect the presence of these fluorescent compounds.

There are a some limitations with this method. Other compounds can occur in water that create a lot of background fluorescence, which could mask this signal. We also need other methods to confirm the identity of the chemical(s) which are producing fluorescence. It's not a perfect method, but it can point us in the right direction. To really prove anything, follow up tests are required.

What fluorescence spectroscopy is NOT:

The fluorescence method we use is known as 3-D Scanning Excitation-Emission Fluorometry of Dissolved Organic Matter. This method is not an EPA-certified method for detecting specific contaminants nor for assessing risk to human health. We do not employ EPA-approved methods to detect contaminants in water for the purpose of regulatory compliance. Fluorescence based methods may detect one or more chemicals present in JP-5 but do not provide specific information on their identity.

What are the main findings?

To date, there have been no positive detections in waters supplied by non-Navy wells (operated by the Board of Water Supply). However, up to May 2022, we have continued to observe fluorescence spectra resembling low concentrations of JP-5 in a small percentage of samples collected from Navy water supply. The assumption is that positive screening detection of potential JP-5 fluorescence are residual contaminants from the fuel released into the Red Hill Shaft and distributed through the Navy drinking water system.

It is possible that the concentrations we are detecting are 1) below regulated thresholds and 2) below the detection limit of standard EPA methods. We are not qualified to comment on the implications for human health and any positive detections require follow-up analysis. The UH Red Hill Task Force is working to develop collaborations and analytical methods that will allow us to confirm future results.

What are the criteria for scoring contamination in water samples?

Samples are scored in a semi-quantitative manner. High fluorescence measurements with a clear JP-5 pattern are scored as 'positive detection'. Samples that have fluorescence in the JP-5 region but show ambiguous patterning are considered 'possible detection'. These samples either have high background fluorescence due to other dissolved compounds (e.g. muddy stream water) or they have very low concentrations of JP-5 that are barely detectable. Because of the uncertainty, these samples are scored as 'possible detections.' Samples where there is no fluorescence in the JP-5 region are scored as 'no detection'.

Transient positive detections

At some locations, you may see a period of positive detection followed by a period of no detections and then positive detections again. Based on our assumption that the positive detections are residual contaminants remaining in the Navy drinking water distribution system, we believe the transitory nature may be due to one or more reasons below:

Water usage: High water usage is expected to reduce the contaminant concentration; whether it is variation at the individual home level or community wide, both may affect the concentration of contaminant that makes it into the sample bottle.

Environmental conditions: Differences in temperature and pressure will affect the distribution of contaminants between solid, water and gas phases.

Heterogeneity: Homogeneous materials have the same composition throughout the whole material and any collected sample will fully represent the whole, while heterogeneous materials have different compositions throughout. In the case of tap water, heterogeneity is often contributed by the presence of solids within the water, which can include small particulates, micro-organisms and fragments of biofilms. Many contaminants tend to adsorb (attach) to surfaces, thus the presence and amount of solids in the sample at time of collection can affect the apparent concentration detected.

How were the samples collected?

Samples from prior to February 2, 2022 were mainly donated by concerned residents. Residents were instructed to collect samples in clean glass or plastic containers and to avoid containers previously used for food or beverages other than water, in order to reduce the influence of cross contamination.

Since February 2, 2022, all samples have been collected by members of the Red Hill Task Force following the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) below.

Equipment and Supplies

  • Pre-cleaned 40 mL VOA glass vials with Teflon lined septum caps (VWR TraceClean, 89096-790 or equivalent)
  • Vials may be re-used following rinsing with deionized water and combustion (450C for 2h)
  • Caps may be re-used following rinsing with 10% v/v HCl in deionized water and thorough drying
  • Indelible Ink Pen
  • Labels or tape
  • Cooler or opaque sealed container

Protocol

  1. Remove the faucet aerator, strainer, or hose prior to turning on the faucet for sampling. If unable to remove, consider alternative sampling points such as bathtubs.
  2. Before collecting the sample, purge the faucet using the cold water spigot for 10 seconds to discard stagnant water from pipes.
  3. Adjust the flow rate to a slow steady stream to avoid splashing. Do not change the water flow once sample collection has begun.
  4. Be aware of and record any unusual odor or physical characteristics (e.g., particulate, color) associated with the water coming from the spigot.
  5. Do not remove the septum-cap until immediately before sampling. Remove the septum-cap avoiding contact with the rim or inside of the vial.
  6. Hold the open end of the vial away from you and place the vial under the spigot tilted so that the sample runs down the inside of the vial.
  7. Fill the vial completely then cap it loosely. Invert the vial gently two or three times to rinse the interior and cap. Gently discard the contents.
  8. Fill the vial completely so that there is no headspace and cap the vial.
  9. Samples may not be acidified or frozen, as this will alter fluorescence characteristics.
  10. Store samples in a cooler or an opaque container away from sunlight to avoid bleaching fluorescent compounds.
  11. Move to 4C (refrigerator).

Holding time

Samples may be kept at 4C for several weeks.

What are the advantages of this method?

Rapid detection, low cost, and high sensitivity. This analysis requires only a few milliliters of water (one teaspoon). Each sample takes about 5 minutes to run. Certain components of JP-5 fuel can be detected at very low concentrations down to 10 parts per billion.

What are the disadvantages?

This test has low specificity. Looking at the results, you cannot tell the difference between JP-5 fuel and other oil based contaminants (e.g. gasoline or diesel). Background noise can be an issue, too. If the water has a lot of other chemical compounds in it, for example drainage water after a heavy rain, the signal can be wiped out by background fluorescence. Because of these uncertainties, this analysis is not approved for regulatory action.

Has fluorescence analysis been used to test for petroleum contamination in other contexts?

Yes. This method was used to monitor the extent of oil plumes in the gulf of Mexico during the Deepwater Horizon spill. It is part of the U.S. Coast Guard SMART protocol, which the U.S. Coast Guard uses to provide rapid feedback on oil dispersion efforts. The technology has been proposed as an early contaminant detection system for water treatment plants.

There are many research articles describing the use of fluorescence to detect oil based contaminant plumes in the ocean, groundwater, and streams (see examples below). Because it is fast and affordable, it allows researchers to collect more samples, and generate more data, than they would using standard methods. At present, fluorescence analysis is more common in academic studies than it is in practical applications and fluorescence analysis has not been used for regulatory purposes by government agencies.

What are other methods used in the analysis of petroleum fuels and how do they compare to the screening method from UH?

Gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC/MS) is the current gold standard for the identification and quantification of specific chemicals in petroleum contamination. GC/MS and a closely related method, GC-FID, are used to measure TPH (-g, -d, and -o). When generated under a sufficient level of quality control, these types of data may be used to establish and enforce regulatory limits. However, GC based methods are relatively slow, expensive, and technically difficult to perform.

Interested parties, such as DOH and the U.S. Navy send their samples to certified analytical laboratories, which can take weeks to provide results. These results are very thoroughly vetted, but the time delay and costs make this test inaccessible to many concerned community members. UH researchers are not involved with enforcing regulatory standards. Our main interest is in sharing all available tools and information with the community. Fluorescence testing allows UH to provide information to the broadest group of people. While the results cannot be used in a regulatory context, they can indicate locations that may benefit from additional scrutiny by regulatory agencies.

Diagram showing the chemicals detected by various analytical methods
Fluorescence Schematic

How was this method validated?

A pure sample of JP-5 fuel was provided by the Navy Labs. A portion of the sample was added to clean water at a known concentration of 5 parts per million (ppm). The mixture of water and JP-5 fuel was shaken for 2 minutes. This standard stock of contaminated water was used to create a dilution series of progressively less concentrated JP-5 in water. The stock solution was diluted with clean water, lowering the concentration of the JP-5 fuel in the sample. Each diluted sample was measured using our fluorescence detection machine. This allowed for the identification of a consistent and distinct peak in fluorescence (i.e. colored light) that corresponded to JP-5 fuel contamination in water.

The fluorescent peak that appears when JP-5 is added to water matches reported fluorescent peaks for polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are a component of JP-5 fuel. While this method does not detect all of the components of JP-5 fuel, it can detect PAHs. The presence of PAHs could indicate JP-5 fuel contamination. For fresh JP-5, the detection limit for this technique was around 10 parts per billion of JP-5 in water. However, as the fuel ages and weathers, the fluorescence pattern and detection limit may change. We will continue to refine our method as new data comes in.

Relevant examples of fluorescence analysis

Cross laboratory validation for fluorescence measurements of crude oil dissolved in water:

Bera, Gopal, et al. “Inter-Laboratory Calibration of Estimated Oil Equivalent (EOE) Concentrations of a Water Accommodated Fraction (WAF) of Oil and a Chemically Enhanced WAF (CEWAF).” Heliyon, vol. 5, no. 1, Jan. 2019, p. e01174. DOI.org (Crossref), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2019.e01174.

Detecting groundwater contamination using fluorescence measurements near a former gasworks site:

Dvorski, Sabine E. M., et al. “Geochemistry of Dissolved Organic Matter in a Spatially Highly Resolved Groundwater Petroleum Hydrocarbon Plume Cross-Section.” Environmental Science & Technology, vol. 50, no. 11, June 2016, pp. 5536–46. DOI.org (Crossref), https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.6b00849.

Monitoring of wastewater contamination in a stream using fluorescence measurements:

Mendoza, Lorelay M., et al. “Fluorescence-Based Monitoring of Anthropogenic Pollutant Inputs to an Urban Stream in Southern California, USA.” Science of The Total Environment, vol. 718, May 2020, p. 137206. DOI.org (Crossref), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.137206.

Correlating fluorescence measurements and acute toxicity at a national oil spill study site:

Podgorski, David C., et al. “Examining Natural Attenuation and Acute Toxicity of Petroleum-Derived Dissolved Organic Matter with Optical Spectroscopy.” Environmental Science & Technology, vol. 52, no. 11, June 2018, pp. 6157–66. DOI.org (Crossref), https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.8b00016.

Using fluorescence and GC/MS to monitor subsurface oil plumes from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill:

Wade, Terry L., et al. “Analyses of Water Samples From the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Documentation of the Subsurface Plume.” Geophysical Monograph Series, edited by Yonggang Liu et al., vol. 195, American Geophysical Union, 2011, pp. 77–82. DOI.org (Crossref), https://doi.org/10.1029/2011GM001103

Using fluorescence to monitor composition and fate of oil components from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill:

Zhou, Zhengzhen, et al. “Characterization of Oil Components from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico Using Fluorescence EEM and PARAFAC Techniques.” Marine Chemistry, vol. 148, Jan. 2013, pp. 10–21. DOI.org (Crossref), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marchem.2012.10.003.

A series of experiments testing detection limits of fluorescence measurement for various contaminants, including gasoline and diesel fuel:

Wasswa, Joseph, et al. “Assessing the Potential of Fluorescence Spectroscopy to Monitor Contaminants in Source Waters and Water Reuse Systems.” Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology, vol. 5, no. 2, 2019, pp. 370–82. DOI.org (Crossref), https://doi.org/10.1039/C8EW00472B.