US Pacific Fleet lead doctor: No evidence fuel-tainted water caused long-term symptoms

The U.S. Pacific Fleet's highest ranking doctor and other military officials explain how they're responding to the Navy's tainted water crisis.
Published: Mar. 4, 2022 at 5:44 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 4, 2022 at 5:59 PM HST

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Near Moanalua Shopping Center, there’s a hub for military families seeking assistance amid the ongoing tainted water crisis.

So far, more than 18,000 claims have been filed there and $28 million paid out.

Raymond Mcknight is chief of the temporary lodging assistance team. He lives in Radford Housing, where the water has not been cleared as safe to drink.

“To be affected by it and helping others do it, it’s just paying it forward,” said McKight.

The center helps families with emergency services, lodging benefits and counseling.

On Friday, military officials invited the media there to talk about how they’re responding.

Capt. Michael McGinnis, surgeon for the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior medical officer, says he has seen reports of families who believe they have longer-term illness from fuel-tainted water.

He said medical teams saw 6,000 people during the crisis, and common symptoms included nausea, vomiting headache and rash.

But McGinnis says the fuel exposure was temporary.

Complaints have gone down since early December and no one has been hospitalized for petroleum toxicity, he said.

McGinnis says he has seen reports on Hawaii News Now showing families complaining of long-term illness from the fuel-tainted water.

“We have no evidence to suggest there’s ongoing acute exposure or symptoms related to the water distribution system,” said McGinnis.

“To date, there had been no admissions that we are tracking that have been specifically attributed to water exposure and despite us evaluating and caring for families dealing with the water exposure. Again no admissions,” he added.

HNN asked McGinnis if he thought any families were making up their symptoms because of the crisis. “I would not conjecture that families are making up their complaints,” said McGinnis.

“Certainly stress can manifest in physical symptoms. That’s something to consider,” he added.

So far seven of 19 neighborhood zones along the Navy’s waterline have been cleared by the state Department of Health as having water that’s considered safe to drink.

The Navy now says the contamination isn’t as widespread.

“The vast majority of homes when we look at the Navy distribution system had no impact whatsoever, but there are homes in specific areas that have evidence of contamination,” said McGinnis.

Military teams say they stand ready to assist for as long as it takes.

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