HONOLULU — U.S. public health officials began investigating Tuesday how civilians were affected by oil leaking into Pearl Harbor tap water from a Navy fuel storage facility. .
The Hawaii Department of Health said it asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to conduct the study.
The department said officials would investigate civilians living in homes serviced by the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam water system. They will also try to reach people who may have been exposed to contaminated water at work or school.
The survey will include questions about exposure, health symptoms and medical care. It will also cover impacts on children and pets, health status before water contamination and more, the department said. The results will be made public.
The CDC said civilian residents wishing to participate in an investigation should call 404-567-3256. Residents can also email [email protected] to register.
The Navy water supply system serves some 93,000 people in residences, offices, elementary schools and businesses in and around Pearl Harbor.
Starting in late November, around 1,000 people complained that their tap water smelled like fuel or reported physical ailments like nausea and rashes after ingesting it.
Shortly after, the Navy said it detected oil in a drinking water well that serves its water system. Navy officials say they believe leaks from its Red Hill storage facility near Pearl Harbor polluted the well.
State toxicologist Dr. Diana Felton said it was critical that authorities track the impact of the incident on all Hawaii residents.
Meanwhile, Hawaii’s congressional delegation urged the Navy to comply with the Hawaii Department of Health’s Monday order to drain fuel from tanks to protect Oʻahu’s drinking water.
“Safe refueling will require a coordinated effort, and the delegation will do everything possible to support this effort,” they said in a statement. “Clean drinking water is essential to our health and safety, and to our future – we all agree that this cannot be compromised for anything.”
The delegation is made up of four members, all Democrats: US Sens Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono and US Representatives Ed Case and Kaialiʻi Kahele.
So far, only the Navy’s water system has been affected by the contamination. But the Honolulu Water Supply Board draws from the same aquifer as the Navy, and Hawaiian officials fear leaks could contaminate its water as well.
The Red Hill facility contains 20 giant underground tanks built into the mountainside during World War II. Collectively they can hold up to 250 million gallons (946 million liters) of fuel, although two of the tanks are now empty.
The tank farm sits just 100 feet (30 meters) above the aquifer shared by the Navy and the Honolulu Board of Water Supply. It supplies oil to all branches of the military.