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Fuel odor in Navy water on Oahu prompts more than 100 complaints

HONOLULU — The state Department of Health said Tuesday tests of water samples from the Navy’s water system at Pearl Harbor have so far been inconclusive after it received more than 100 complaints about fuel-like odor coming from tap water in the area.

Kathleen Ho, the department’s deputy director for environmental health, said samples sent to a Hawaii lab showed there were no contaminants in the water up to five parts per million. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t contaminants in the water, she said.

The department expects to get results from samples sent to a California lab later this week.

Ho told reporters at a news conference that a department inspector also noticed a fuel-like smell while at Red Hill Elementary School and at a child center in Aliamanu.

Ho said all complaints about the fuel-like odor came from people using the Navy’s water system. The department has not received any complaints from customers of the Honolulu water utility, the Board of Water Supply.

The department on Monday recommended that all Navy water customers avoid drinking their tap water. It also recommended that those who can smell fuel in their water avoid using it for bathing, washing dishes and laundry.

Ho said she would stand by these recommendations until the department gets further results.

She said that the stomach problems and headaches that some people have complained about could potentially be the result of being exposed to petroleum.

The department and the Navy are both investigating what the source of any contamination could be, she said.

The Navy said its engineers inspected water storage tanks, wells and distribution lines for contaminants. It also flushed distribution lines associated with housing communities that have reported contamination.

It’s also asking residents in military housing to run the water in their homes for three to five minutes to help move water through the system and possibly alleviate the odor.

The complaints began on Sunday. They’re only the latest in a series fuel-related issues at Pearl Harbor and the Navy’s nearby Red Hill fuel tank farm.

Last week, the Navy said a water and fuel mixture leaked into the Red Hill facility’s lower tunnel from a fire suppression system drain line. No fuel leaked into the environment.

Last month, Honolulu Civil Beat reported that officials waited months to report a January leak at Pearl Harbor to the state Department of Health because they were worried doing so would hurt their ability to get a permit for the Red Hill tanks. Hawaii’s congressional delegation has asked the Department of Defense to investigate.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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