6 December, HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) Peter Boylan — Gov. David Ige and Hawaii’s congressional delegation on Sunday called for the Navy to suspend its Red Hill fuel storage operation until its drinking water contamination crisis is handled.
The Navy on Thursday said recent testing of its Red Hill well detected the presence of petroleum contaminants. Hundreds of military and nonmilitary users of the Navy’s water system last week complained of a strong fuel odor in the water, including some who reported feeling ill or having pets who became sick after drinking water.
Ige and U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono, and Reps. Ed Case and Kai Kahele, all Democrats, released a joint statement calling for the Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, who is in Hawaii for the 80th anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, to suspend Red Hill operations in the aftermath of the contamination of drinking water at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and surrounding areas.
“Test results confirming contamination of drinking water … show that the Navy is not effectively operating the World War II-era facility and protecting the health and safety of the people of Hawaii. We are calling for the Navy to immediately suspend operations at Red Hill while they confront and remedy this crisis,“ the joint statement said.
Del Toro did not respond to Honolulu Star-Advertiser requests for comment on the joint statement. Also, Rear Adm. Timothy J. Kott, commander of Navy Region Hawaii, was not available for an interview Sunday night, according to a spokeswoman.
During a town hall meeting about the Navy’s response to the crisis, held Sunday at the Hokulani Community Center, Del Toro declined to answer questions from the Star-Advertiser about the future of the Red Hill storage facility. “I’m here to listen,“ he told the Star-Advertiser.
Starting in, water samples taken by the Navy from its Red Hill drinking water well and tested at a commercial facility showed petroleum contamination, the Star-Advertiser reported Sunday. Petroleum also showed up in Red Hill drinking water samples in August and September. The Navy shut down the Red Hill water shaft on Nov. 28 as Department of Defense families began reporting the smell of fuel coming from their tap water, chemical odors, bad tastes, and a strange sheen.
Since suspension of use of the shaft, many residents said they developed skin rashes, nausea, headaches and vomiting. Others reported pets falling sick.
On Sunday, Capt. Erik Spitzer, commander of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, issued a public apology, acknowledging that the Navy was wrong about the water being safe for drinking or bathing. Spitzer also apologized for a notice issued to military housing residents on Nov. 29 that indicated the water was safe. “My staff and I are drinking the water on base this morning, and many of my team live in housing and drink and use the water as well,“ said Spitzer in the notice.
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