HONOLULU (KHON2) — Both Nimitz and Red Hill Elementary Schools were without water Monday, as fuel-like odors plague the area’s water supply.
Both schools remained open Monday after reporting the smell coming from water lines.
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The Hawaii Department of Education says there are no plans to close the schools, instead, sinks were taped off, bottled water and hand sanitizer were put in place, and lunches were prepared without the use of water.
“It’s concerning considering they’re kids and they’re not going to know any different, most of the time if there’s anything going on they’re oblivious. So if there’s anything in the water it concerns me that they’re going to continue to drink it,” Red Hill Elementary School parent Jamie Keener said.
Reports began Sunday of fuel-like smells in neighborhoods surrounding Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam. Keener says her family could smell something coming from their tap water.
“My middle (child) came home from school and he noticed the odor as well so I said it’s got to be something, but even housing hasn’t notified us of anything,” Keener said.
The Navy and Department of Health say they’re investigating the water.
“We continue to sample and test water and are working with DOH on that effort. We are providing updates to families but have no immediate indication that the water is not safe. We are asking residents to let us know of issues,” a Navy Spokesperson said.
A week ago, the Navy reported about 14,000 gallons of fuel and water spilled from a drain line near the troubled Red Hill facility. It’s unknown if these incidents are related.
The Sierra Club’s Hawaii chapter has fought for years to have the tanks emptied.
“What the Navy needs to do now apart from taking care of its people, is immediately starting to find alternative locations so to speak, so that we can begin this process of draining the fuel tanks and providing the necessary protection that we need,” Sierra Club Hawaii Chapter Director Wayne Tanaka said.
The Honolulu Board of Water Supply says their water systems are designed to remain separated from the Navy’s system.
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Their closest water source is the Halawa Shaft, which BWS says was last tested in October with no presence of fuel, but that was before the spill.
BWS says they will increase testing frequency to monthly, but doesn’t have a date for when that will start.
The JBPHH Commander sent a note to residents at housing this afternoon:
To Residents of JBPHH Military Housing,
Our teams continue to respond to concerns and complaints of odor in water at housing in our various communities. We appreciate your feedback and will continue to sample, test and provide expedited results as soon as they are available. We are working closely with the Department of Health on this issue. We are fully committed to the health and safety of our base residents and workers. Our priority is to ensure there is no risk to our families, to the public, and to our drinking water.
I can tell you at this point that there are no immediate indications that the water is not safe. My staff and I are drinking the water on base this morning, and many of my team live in housing and drink and use the water as well. We visited several communities and homes last night to get samples of water, and we talked with residents who had concerns.
We have not recommended any schools to be closed, and we have not sent out any notifications telling people to not use the water. However, know that we are taking your concerns seriously and are working with Department of Health on testing many water samples. And we will follow up with you as soon as those results are available.
If you do have questions or concerns about the water, please call Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Information Cell at (808) 448-2570.
Thank you, and we will provide more updates as soon as we have any new information.
CAPT Erik Spitzer