- The Washington Times - Friday, December 3, 2021

A key water well used by military personnel and their families at Pearl Harbor is contaminated with petroleum, Navy officials said late Thursday, sparking what some lawmakers say is a “crisis of astronomical proportions” for tens of thousands of people whose access to clean water is now in question.

The Navy said that samples taken from the Red Hill well, which is used by service members stationed at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam on Hawaii’s Oahu island, detected “petroleum hydrocarbons” in the water.

“Now with multiple indications that the source has been identified and isolated, the Navy is developing a plan to restore the potable water system to EPA standards, identify how this contaminant got in the well, and fix the well,” the Navy‘s Pacific Fleet said in a statement. “The Navy‘s priority is keeping sailors, civilians, their families, and all of those who live and work on Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam property and who use the Navy‘s water safe and healthy.”

But outraged lawmakers said much more must be done.

“The Navy is currently experiencing a crisis of astronomical proportions in Hawaii,” Rep. Kai Kahele, Hawaii Democrat, said at a House hearing with Navy officials Thursday. “Almost 100,000 people are without water. Our military families are getting sick. Animals are getting sick. And our military families need answers and the island of Oahu needs answers.”

The Hawaii Department of Health said earlier this week it has received more than 175 complaints about the issue, all from users of the Navy‘s water system. Users of the system reported fuel-like odors in the water, leading to the latest round of testing.

Hawaii state officials recommended that “all Navy water system users should avoid using the water for drinking, cooking, or oral hygiene,” the state health department said in a statement. “Navy water system users who detect a fuel-like odor from their water should avoid using the water for drinking, cooking, bathing, dishwashing, laundry or oral hygiene (brushing teeth, etc.).”

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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