Hundreds of military families in Hawaii were forced into hotels by apparent leak of Navy fuel into their water supply

Hundreds of military families in Hawaii were forced into hotels by apparent leak of Navy fuel into their water supply
© Provided by Business Insider Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro visited the site of a petroleum leak on Monday that has left hundreds of military families without clean water for over a week. US Navy/Chief of Naval Operations

  • The Navy has confirmed the presence of petroleum in the water system that services Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. 
  • Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro apologized to families for any “angst” the water crisis has caused them. 
  • Over 700 families are now being housed in hotels to escape the water contamination, according to Pacific Fleet. 

Military residents near Hawaii’s Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam began to find something distasteful: their tap water smelled like gasoline. On Friday, Navy officials confirmed that petroleum had contaminated a well serving the Navy water system.

Navy leaders fielded questions from residents for over four hours on Sunday night in the latest of a series of town halls concerning the developing water crisis at the base, where a nearby fuel reservoir has apparently leached into the water supply. 

Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro apologized to Hawaii’s military families and said the Navy is “already working extremely hard” to find a solution to the water crisis.  Del Toro said while he initially travelled to Hawaii for Pearl Harbor commemorations, being at the town hall “is the most important thing I can be doing.” 

“My promise to you is we don’t just leave here and forget about you,” Del Toro said. 

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During Sunday’s townhall, Rear Adm. Blake Converse, deputy commander of the US Pacific Fleet, said over 700 residents are being housed in hotel rooms to get away from the contamination. 

Some families have reported symptoms including rashes, stomach problems, dizziness and sore throat throughout the last week.

—USNavyCNO (@USNavyCNO) December 6, 2021

 

Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam houses about 7,000 families and a base spokesperson said about 1,400 of those families are in areas affected by the water issues. 

During the town hall, Navy leaders received questions from families of all service branches concerning the health of their children, pregnant women, animals and the safety of the environment as the Navy searches for a solution to the crisis. 

“I’m here to ask you why you were not my a wingman to protect my 13-month-old son when I was bathing him and I was giving him a sip cup full of water from my faucet, when he was throwing up for days on end,” said one Air Force spouse. “I’m here to ask why you weren’t there protecting my family when we made the heartbreaking choice to put my beloved dog down.” 

The spouse said the family has had multiple visits to the emergency room and spent thousands of dollars to discover why their healthy dog was vomiting and having trouble breathing. 

Officials said they have identified three Air Force housing communities, five Navy communities and two Army communities that have been directly affected by the contamination. 

During the town hall, residents praised the actions of the Army — who deployed soldiers to deliver water door to door at Aliamanu Military Reservation. 

On Monday, Armed Forces Housing Advocates, a group that services military families, sent a letter to President Joe Biden requesting he declare a state of emergency in Hawaii. The group has reported receiving nearly 500 complaints from families having water that smelled like fuel. 

The suspected site of the leak is the Navy’s bank of underground fuel storage tanks built into a volcanic mountain ridge. The Red Hill facility can store up to 250 million galloons of petroleum and its lines run down the piers at Pearl Harbor to refuel ships. The site has prompted decades of concerns about water contamination.

U.S. Representative Ed Case, Hawaii Democrat, told reporters from the Honolulu Star Advertiser that the Navy “has not been forthcoming” with test results requested by the state’s Department of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency.  

“The Navy’s handling of Red Hill has not inspired public confidence,” Case said. “If the calculation of preserving a national security asset presents unacceptable risk to us, to our drinking water, to our lives, that’s not a risk that I or anybody else is willing, or should be asked, to accept.” 

On Sunday, Hawaii’s entire congressional delegation and its governor, David Ige, released a joint statement calling on the Navy to immediately suspend its operations at Red Hill until they “remedy this crisis.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

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