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More toxic exposure to military and their families

Veteran Legislative Voice
Toxic exposures on our military are no new thing, often it is the side effect of chemical war like mustard gas, nuclear or radiation, agent orange, or burn pits. But what I am going to talk about is the exposure to our families inside our own country. This isn’t about PFAS, or the exposures on Fort McClellan or Camp Lejeune, this is about the drinking water at military installations in Hawaii.

There were already reports of residents on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam being sickened, possibly from the water. On November 29, the base commander, Captain Erik A.Spitzer, sent out a message to all military housing residents. He stated: “I can tell you at this point that there are no immediate indications that the water is not safe… We visited several communities and homes last night to get samples of water and we talked with residents who had concerns.”

But it was found that just before Thanksgiving on November 22 a fuel-water mixture totaling 14,000 gallons was spilled from a leak in a drain line on Pearl Harbor.

The very next day, the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) advised military housing residents to not consume or use the water. Hawaii’s state toxicologist, Dr. Diana Felton, outlined the symptoms of those affected, they are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, headaches, and rashes.

The Pacific Fleet deputy commander, Rear Admiral Blake Converse, spoke at a town hall meeting a few days after the DOH’s advisement. He stated that the affected water source has been shut down and the process of flushing all the contaminated water out was underway.

Currently, 680 Navy and 270 Army homes have been reported being affected. Bottled water is being distributed and shower and laundry facilities are in the process of being set up.

Sadly, this is not the first time this happened. There is an aging fuel storage facility called Red Hill that was built underground back in the Second World War.

The Navy has already been fined $325,000 for alleged pipeline safety violations on a system that serves about 93,000 people. Back in 2014, the Navy stated that 27,000 gallons had leaked from this storage facility.

The most concerning fact are that these tanks are only 100 feet above the aquifer that supplies about 25 percent of the water supplied in Honolulu, the exact same aquifer that supplied the contaminated water for this current incident.

There does not appear to be any sign of shutting down the Red Hill Fuel Storage Facility, but Hawaii’s Governor David Ige, the state’s entire congressional delegation, and environmentalist groups have been urging the federal government to do so.

What these military families are concerned about are the long-term effects of this contamination.

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