The state tells Pearl Harbor naval families not to drink or use tap water-Honolulu Civil Beat

2021-12-01 08:35:23 By : Mr. Nicolas Liu

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Update: After local families said they were sick due to possible water pollution, the Ministry of Health advised residents not to use water near Pearl Harbor.

After the state of Hawaii received a large number of complaints from consumers, the Hawaii Department of Health advised users of the Navy’s Pearl Harbor-Hickam Joint Base Water Supply System to avoid drinking or using tap water. The system includes Aliamanu military reserve, Red Mountain and Nimitz elementary schools, and military housing.

"The Ministry of Health advises all users of the Navy's water supply system to avoid using this water for drinking, cooking or oral hygiene," the agency said in a press release Monday evening. “Users of the Navy’s water supply system who have detected fuel odors in the water should avoid using the water for drinking, cooking, bathing, washing dishes, laundry or oral hygiene (brushing teeth, etc.).”

In the past week, many residents of the military residential community near the Pearl Harbor-Hickam Joint Base noticed that their water smelled like fuel and reported that their family members and pets suffered from a series of physical illnesses. 

The U.S. Navy said in a press release on Monday that it is investigating the chemical odors in their drinking water. But as of Monday afternoon, Navy officials have not announced the possible causes of this situation and insisted that the water is safe. 

Captain Eric Spitzer, the commander of the Pearl Harbor-Hickam Joint Base, said in a message to residents on Monday afternoon that the Navy will “continue to sample, test and provide the results as soon as possible” and coordinate health with the state government. Department. 

"At this time I can tell you that there is no direct sign that the water is not safe," he wrote. "My staff and I were drinking water from the base this morning. Many of my teams also live in houses and drink and use water." 

But many military families are skeptical.

Bonnie Russell is a military spouse in Catlin Park. She said that her water smelled of gasoline since Sunday morning. If Spitzer does not smell gasoline, he should visit her near her house. . 

"If he wants, he is very welcome to come and drink a glass of water," she said. 

On Monday, residents expressed shock on social media, saying that their family members had begun to have health problems, which they believed were related to their foul-smelling water, including skin rashes, mouth ulcers, stomach pains, headaches and nausea. 

Families also expressed frustration at their perception that officials lacked communication and reported that bottled water in some regional stores was being sold out.

Armed Forces Housing Advocates, an organization that provides services to military families, reportedly received 456 complaints from local families who reported that the water smelled like fuel. According to operations director Kate Needham, the organization bought water worth $1,200 to distribute, but it ran out almost immediately.

The Ministry of Health press release stated that it is working with the Navy to investigate the scope and source of the problem, including sampling and analysis of potential oil components. The Ministry of Health stated that the preliminary DOH results received on Monday afternoon were inconclusive and no contaminants were detected.

The samples were also sent to a drinking water testing laboratory in California, which is expected to provide "more quantifiable, pollutant-specific results" by the end of this week.

Valerie Kaahanui, who lives in the Dorris Miller community, said that about a week ago, she and her three children began to notice problems.

"My child is sick, with respiratory problems and headaches. I have been having headaches for the past week," she said. "My child has a nosebleed and a rash, and itchy after we take a bath. It feels like our skin is burning."

Kaahanui said that the smell became obvious in the shower on Saturday, and it became stronger on Sunday, with a film on the water.

"It smells like gasoline," she said. "Today, as soon as you turned on the faucet, it was cold or hot and your eyes shed tears. This is not good."

Kaahanui said that other families noticed the same thing and started posting on Facebook, but there was almost no exchange between the military or the Ohana military community that runs her residential area.

"Now the housing tells us: don't drink water," Kahanui said. But she said that the message was only sent to her over the phone, and was not sent to her via email.

She said that Kahanui bought a few boxes of water yesterday, and others are doing the same.

"We went to Target again today, there is a line around the corner," she said. "The mini supermarket is out of water. The canteen is out of water."

Civil Beat spoke to six other local residents. They reported that their water smelled of fuel, but declined to be named due to fear of military reprisals. 

A military spouse named Bethany said that she had had stomach pain, cramps and nausea for several days.

"Literally, it smells like you are at a gas station," she said.

Another person said that she had always had migraines, her daughter had stomach cramps, and their dog had diarrhea.

A military spouse whose family recently moved to Honolulu said that she and her child had sore throats, congestion, headaches and stomach pains in the past week. 

She said the family felt better since they stopped using water on Sunday, but now they can’t shower or wash their hands properly and can only make ends meet with bottled water. 

Another military spouse and mother of young children, Michelle Foor, said she was able to light the water in the tap on Sunday. 

"At the same time, we didn't get any information," she said. "There is no instruction to stop drinking or use water." 

Its automatic telephone recordings showed that Holy Family Catholic Academy and Preschool were closed on Monday, citing “reports of chemical odors in the water”.

On Monday, Nimitz Elementary School principal Corey Allen sent a notice to parents that the school’s leadership “has been aware of reports of water pollution in the surrounding area”.

Allen’s e-mail stated that in response, the school has blocked all sinks and drinking fountains, modified its catering services to avoid tap water, and is buying bottled water.

According to a naval press release, naval engineers visited several homes that reported odors and immediately inspected the navy’s drinking water wells.

"The water in the Navy's wells and tanks does not have any odors or signs of fuel or chemicals," the press release said. "Experts collected water samples for testing at multiple locations."

The Navy said it is cooperating with the Hawaii Department of Health to conduct laboratory tests on Navy water samples. The press release stated that the Navy will continue to monitor and investigate, and will update residents on the situation.

In the press release, the Navy did not specify how many houses were affected. 

The Navy also did not say whether it might be connected to the Navy’s disputed Red Mountain bulk fuel storage facility, which is a farm with 20 large underground fuel tanks and a pipeline system that transports fuel to Pearl Harbor and other places. The fuel system is located above the main drinking water aquifer on Oahu.

In a statement Monday afternoon, Wayne Tanaka, executive director of the Sierra Club of Hawaii, noted that 14,000 gallons of fuel and water leaked from the Navy's fire extinguishing system last week. 

"This shouldn't happen. Homes, schools and businesses shouldn't worry about fuel and other pollutants in drinking water," he said.

"People have reported vomiting in pets and skin rashes after bathing in adults, children and babies. Despite this, the Navy only said that they have not found any evidence that tap water may be unsafe to drink." 

The Honolulu Water Supply Commission said in a statement that it conducts regular tests on its water sources, and the last time the BWS water source closest to the Navy’s Red Mountain fuel storage facility, the Halawa Shaft Pump Station, passed the inspection was in October. 

The agency said it will increase the frequency of testing water sources near the Hongshan water tank in response to the concerns of the military housing community. 

Representative Aaron Ling Johanson, representing the affected area, called the reports "very shocking", especially because this is not the first time that naval fuel operations have attracted attention.

The reports of possible contamination were released after the 14,000 gallon leak last week, the 1,600 gallon fuel leak that could affect the environment on May 6, and the news that fuel will be discharged to Pearl Harbor starting in 2020-the response to this triggered Called for investigations by state and federal elected officials. 

"It's very disturbing because it is very frequent," Johnson said. 

"Pearl Harbor is the main pillar of the economy, but given the navy's engineering capabilities and resources at the federal level, there must be a way to find an ideal compromise that can maintain the viability of Pearl Harbor without endangering water sources." 

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