Progress on water flushing overshadowed by questions about colonel’s ‘worse than fuel’ comment
ALIAMANU MILITARY RESERVATION (HawaiiNewsNow) - Military officials on Thursday night announced that residents of Red Hill housing may be allowed to return to their homes as soon as next weekend.
But that positive message was drowned out by damage control — as they sought to address a home surveillance video that ignited more controversy over the contamination in the Navy’s water system.
The video, which has been circulating widely online, was taken last week Wednesday at the military housing residence of Jamie Williams. At one point in the video, Col. Alicia Masson of the U.S. Army Environmental Command — standing in Williams’ front yard — can be heard saying: “This is worse than fuel.”
At a town hall meeting Thursday night at the Aliamanu Military Reservation Chapel, Williams asked for answers. “So it was my home. That’s my video. Obviously very alarming,” she said. “The one question that I have not heard answered, despite it being asked several times, is what is worse than fuel?” she asked.
Masson, who was among those answering questions at the town hall, told Williams her comments were misconstrued. She said she didn’t mean to imply there was a substance worse than fuel in the water. Rather, she said, she was reacting to finding an irrigation system in Williams’ yard.
She initially believed the system would have complicated the flushing of homes.
“It really was about the fact that if this is present here, in my mind I’m multiplying that by 1,668 homes, and from my chair that would feel like a really big problem,” Masson said.
“So that’s why my reaction was the way it was, and I apologize if it caused alarm.”
The U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii backed her up.
“When she went and saw that irrigation that they didn’t know about beforehand, that’s what she said was bad,” said Maj. Gen. Joseph Ryan told attendees. “Because she didn’t know the ramifications of it at the time, and as a scientist, she is trained to take the worst-case scenario and work back from there.”
The Army said it has now confirmed that the irrigation system is not connected with the drinking water. But it doesn’t know yet if that system is also contaminated.
“Can you say unequivocally, can you look me in the face today and tell me that there is absolutely not a hazard in my front yard?” asked Williams.
“I don’t think any of us can do that,” Masson responded. “It’s not something we would do without running several sets of different types of tests.”
However, the military said it will conduct those tests.
“We’re going to flush the irrigation systems, and we’re going to make sure you have clean water in your home before you move back in,” said Ryan.
The Army said it is awaiting final test results and is optimistic that residents can begin returning to Red Hill housing next weekend and Aliamanu Military Reservation around Feb. 27 or 28.
However, that still depends on state Department of Health validation of the test results.
“Light at the end of the tunnel,” said Ryan. “We’re almost there, we’re gonna get there.”
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