Concerns from hundreds of military families living on the Joint Naval Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawai’i about foul-smelling drinking water were dismissed on November 29th, 2021, by Naval Commander Captain Erik Spitzer, who assured residents the water was safe to drink. Spitzer declared that he and his staff were drinking the water, so surely reports of a gasoline-like odor, cramps, and vomiting were nothing to worry about. Then, less than a week later, on December 5th, Spitzer took to Facebook to issue an apology.
What had happened in the days between initial denials of water contamination and the issuing of the apology? As it turns out, the complaints of nearly 1,000 military and civilian households weren’t unfounded. Rather, a November 20th jet fuel spill at a fuel storage facility near the base had leaked into the water supply, rendering the tap water of 93,000 residents, both military families and civilians, hazardous to drink. Tested samples from the Red Hill water shaft, one of three sources of water for the base, contained “total petroleum hydrocarbons diesel range organic” 350 times the levels considered safe for drinking water. Tests also showed “gasoline range organics” at more than 66 times the safe level. In short, despite the base commander’s assurance on November 28th that the water on the base was totally safe to drink, it was indeed contaminated with petroleum and jet fuel. Just two days later, on November 30th, the state health department urged families to avoid using tap water for drinking, cooking, or oral hygiene.
While Hawai’i’s Department of Health warned residents on the base against using the water, the Navy continued to deny any danger. Behind the scenes, however, the Navy had halted
— source commondreams.org | Liz Walters | Mar 27, 2022