- The Navy has confirmed the presence of petroleum in the water system that supplies the Pearl Harbor-Hickam Joint Base.
- Navy Minister Carlos Del Toro apologized to the families for any “fear” the water crisis had caused them.
- According to Pacific Fleet, over 700 families are currently being accommodated in hotels to avoid water pollution.
Military personnel near Hawaii’s Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam began to find something ugly: their tap water smelled like gasoline. On Friday, Navy officials confirmed that petroleum had contaminated a well that supplied the Navy’s water system.
Navy leaders spent more than four hours on Sunday evening in a number of town halls asking questions from residents about the developing water crisis at the base, where a nearby fuel reservoir appears to have leached into the water supply.
Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro apologized to the Hawaiian military families, saying the Navy was “already working extremely hard” to find a solution to the water crisis. Del Toro said that while he originally traveled to Hawaii to commemorate Pearl Harbor, “the most important thing I can do” is to be at City Hall.
“I promise we won’t just walk out of here and forget about you,” said Del Toro.
Speaking at City Hall on Sunday, Rear Adm. Blake Converse, deputy commandant of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said over 700 residents are being placed in hotel rooms to avoid contamination.
Some families have reported symptoms such as rashes, stomach problems, dizziness, and sore throat in the past week.
—USNavyCNO (@USNavyCNO) December 6, 2021
The Pearl Harbor-Hickam Joint Base is home to about 7,000 families, and a base spokesman said about 1,400 of those families live in areas affected by the water problems.
While at the town hall, naval leaders received questions from families in all branches about the health of their children, pregnant women, animals and the safety of the environment as the Navy seeks a solution to the crisis.
“I’m here to ask you why you weren’t my wingman to protect my 13 month old son when I was bathing him and I gave him a drink of water from my tap when he vomited for days,” said an Air Force spouse. “I’m here to ask why you weren’t there to protect my family when we made the heartbreaking decision to euthanize my beloved dog.”
The spouse said the family went to the emergency room several times and spent thousands of dollars trying to find out why their healthy dog was vomiting and having difficulty breathing.
Officials said they identified three Air Force housing developments, five Navy communities, and two Army communities that were directly affected by the contamination.
During the town hall, residents praised the actions of the army, which dispatched soldiers to deliver door-to-door water in the Aliamanu Military Reserve.
On Monday, the Armed Forces Housing Advocates, a group that services military families, sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking for a state of emergency to be declared in Hawaii. The group has reported that it has received nearly 500 complaints from families whose water smelled like fuel.
The suspected location of the leak is the bank of the Navy’s underground fuel storage tanks, which were built into a volcanic ridge. The Red Hill facility can store up to 250 million gallons of petroleum and its lines run along the piers at Pearl Harbor to refuel ships. The site has raised water pollution concerns for decades.
Ed Case, Hawaii Democrat, told reporters for the Honolulu Star Advertiser that the Navy “failed to handle test results” requested by the state health department and the environmental protection agency.
“The Navy’s dealings with Red Hill did not instill public trust,” Case said. “If calculating the preservation of a national security asset poses an unacceptable risk to us, our drinking water, our lives, it is not a risk that I or anyone else will or should accept.”
On Sunday, the entire Hawaiian congressional delegation and their Governor David Ige released a joint statement calling on the Navy to cease operations at Red Hill immediately until they “resolve this crisis.”