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DOH: Navy water system users should avoid consuming water after ‘fuel-like’ odor reported

Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 7:41 AM HST|Updated: Nov. 30, 2021 at 7:26 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A multi-agency investigation is underway amid worrisome reports about strong “fuel-like” odors coming from the water at two Oahu military housing areas.

Late Monday evening, the Hawaii Department of Health publicly recommended “all Navy water system users avoid using the water for drinking, cooking, or oral hygiene.” Those who detect a fuel odor should also avoid using it for bathing, dishwashing, laundry or oral hygiene, the DOH added.

Meanwhile, housing area residents are reporting serious side effects after drinking water from the tap.

The U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii confirmed it is looking into reports of strong chemical odors coming from the water at Air Force and Navy military housing at Joint Base Pearl-Harbor Hickam and Aliamanu Military Reservation. The state Health Department is also investigating, while the Navy said Monday afternoon through a spokeperson that its testing found that the water was safe.

The state Education Department said “fuel-like” odors have also been reported coming from some of the water lines at Nimitz and Red Hill elementary schools, which serve the housing areas.

The schools are still open, but sinks have been taped off and bottled water is being made available. The lunch menus at the schools have also been adjusted so meals can be prepared without water.

The group Armed Forces Housing Advocates says it has been inundated with complaints about the situation, and is urging the residents not to use tap water and to seek medical care if appropriate.

“We have families that are experiencing burning skin after taking showers and baths,” said Kate Needham, of Armed Forces Housing Advocates. “We have small children that are vomiting and have diarrhea.”

The group planned a water distribution event Monday evening where cases of water were handed out to affected families.

Frances Paulino, who lives at Aliamanu Military Reservation, said there’s been little information from authorities about what may be going on. “There hasn’t really been any guidance,” she said.

Paulino added that she’s been experiencing persistent headaches, but is not sure if it’s related.

DOH said the water system is under the jurisdiction of their Safe Drinking Water Branch, however the Navy is responsible for maintaining safety of the lines. They are also responsible to provide alternative sources of drinking water for human uses as deemed necessary, DOH said.

The military said Monday that tests are still being conducted, however they insisted early on, “At this time, there is no immediate indication that the water is unsafe to use or drink.”

Navy engineers visited homes of those who reported the smell and also went to drinking wells.

This is a developing story. It will be updated.

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