The U.S. Navy announced Thursday that fuel was contaminating military families’ drinking water at a well near the Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii.
Rear Adm. Blake Converse told reporters at a press conference late Thursday that the Navy had “pretty conclusive indications that there are volatile petroleum products” in drinking water near the base following complaints from families that their drinking water was contaminated. Converse said the well had been taken offline due to the contamination.
“It was just getting worse every day,” Cheri Burness, wife of a member of the Navy, told the Associated Press.
Residents reportedly began noticing a peculiar gasoline-like smell in their drinking water following a Nov. 22 fuel leak in the Red Hill underground storage facility near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
Burness told the outlet she and many other families complained to the Navy about the drinking water but received little communication from officials, who assured her the water was fine.
“All they had to do was say; ‘We see that there’s a problem, we don’t know what it is and we’re going to do whatever it takes to find out and fix it.’ That’s all they had to do. And instead, we got: ‘Nope. Looks good. Smells fine. Bye,’” Burness said.
The Navy said it received health complaints related to the water supply from over 900 homes using the Navy’s water system. Converse said the Navy would clean out its water system to get rid of the petroleum products, a process that is estimated to take over a week.
The announcement followed a call by Democratic Hawaii Rep. Kai Kahele, who warned of a “crisis of astronomical proportions” if families lost access to drinking water.