Watch Navy Spouse Clash With Leaders Over Water Contamination In Hawaii

In a heartbreaking moment on Monday, a lone military wife stood in front of senior Navy officials and demanded honesty about the water contamination at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

“At this point, I know your seat has been warm for a few days,” the woman identified by the Today Show as Lauren Bauer told Navy officials, including Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro at an event. at the base town hall.

“And everything you knew before this incident was widely publicized and reported internationally by the media is between you and your creator,” says Bauer, his voice shaking. “But now I ask you with all eyes and ears to solve this problem, and you solve it honestly, and I implore you to let us know in all honesty how long we have been exposed so that we can take precautions in the years and decades to come. . ”

The Navy has worked to resolve a water contamination problem at the joint Navy and Air Force base, which is home to approximately 20,000 service members and thousands of other dependents. The Red Hill fuel storage facility was built during World War II, according to the Associated Press, and sits above an aquifer that provides nearly 20 percent of Honolulu’s drinking water. About 93,000 people in total are served by the Navy’s water supply system, AP reported.

Residents of military housing began to complain of the smell of fuel or chemicals coming from their water on Nov. 28, said Rear Admiral Timothy Kott, commander of the Hawaii Naval Region, during a town hall with military families last week. While the Navy’s initial tests last week did not reveal the source of the odor, the Hawaii Department of Health said on December 1 that their initial tests found “petroleum product” in samples. water taken from Red Hill Elementary School, which is served by the Navy’s water system.

Since then, the Hawaii Department of Health has received more than 500 complaints of fuel odors, and the Navy has suspended all operations at the Red Hill fuel storage facility. But questions remain as to how long the Navy has known about potential issues with the Red Hill well, where traces of oil were found.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday that the Navy had test results dating back to July “showing oil contamination in the Red Hill well,” although Navy officials said Tuesday that those test results did not were not coming from the same well that the drinking water is being drawn from. Rear Admiral Blake Converse, deputy commander of the US Pacific Fleet, told a press conference on Tuesday that on two occasions during the summer “high oil” levels had been found in monitoring wells around the Red Hill well. The Navy reported it to the Department of Health, Converse said, and the oil levels “have dropped to undetectable levels.”

Members of the Water Supply Board visit an empty fuel tank at the Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility near Pearl Harbor. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Meranda Keller)

Converse said the public had not been made aware of the high levels of hydrocarbons because it was not in the aquifer where the water used on the base is being pumped.

“So no consumption?” asked a reporter.

“Not based on the monitoring we conducted at that time,” Converse replied.

Navy families have expressed their anger and concerns to leaders at various public meetings over the past two weeks and on social media. A resident said last week that there was “a bunch of gray stuff coming out of every faucet” in her home. Another urged leaders to explain why “no one says” We realize there is something in your water. “”

“Our water is clearly contaminated,” the man said.

This frustration was on display during town hall on Monday when Bauer made passionate remarks about what she and her family went through. Bauer and her husband, along with their “beloved” baby and dog, moved into their Navy accommodation in March of this year, she said.

Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro addresses the crew on the 1MC aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman T’ara Tripp)

“My husband has served this country with pleasure and ease,” she said. “And I stood by his side and stood up for this community on several occasions… I mistakenly assumed that this leadership would do the same for us.”

As the six Navy officials seated at the front of the room sat in silence, Bauer went on to tell them that his 13-month-old son had bathed and drank in tap water, and that he “Has been throwing up for days. . “She asked why they” weren’t my wingman “as she and her husband began to have” mysterious symptoms such as sore throat, heartburn, unusual heavy sweating, headaches that cannot be alleviated, requiring multiple emergency room visits for additional medication, vomiting, diarrhea, skin irritation.

“I’m here to ask why you didn’t protect us when the most catastrophic release scenario happened in excess… I’m here to ask why you weren’t there to protect my family when we did. the heartbreaking choice to put my beloved dog to the ground after a mysterious illness and thousands of dollars tried to find out why all of a sudden after being healthy she coughs, chokes, vomits, difficulty breathing, a loss of appetite, depression, general weakness, intermittent dry and oily stools, chills, head tremors, lack of coordination and dehydration, “said Bauer, his voice broken.” Because suddenly he now makes sense that she would go days without drinking water and then vomit after drinking it. I dare say you murdered my dog, but causation is not a correlation, so I’m left to speculate.

When she finished speaking, the other residents sitting around her began to clap. Del Toro addressed her first, thanking her and telling her that “my heart goes out to you,” promising that they would “answer any issues” she raised, and at one point blaming them. officials who preceded him.

“I was Secretary of the Navy for 16 weeks,” he said. “I just figured out this situation with Red Hill. All I can say is on behalf of our country, I am so sorry that some of these challenges may not have been addressed in the past.

Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Lovgren, Fuels Manager, Fleet Logistics Center Pearl Harbor, briefs a congressional delegation during a visit to the Red Hill Bulk Fuel facility near Pearl Harbor. Red Hill is a national strategic asset that provides fuel to operate in the Pacific while ensuring that drinking water in the region remains safe. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gabrielle Joyner)

There has been a litany of problems with fuel storage at Red Hill – the most recent being last month, when about 14,000 gallons of fuel and water “leaked from a hose to the fuel system.” fire extinguishing facility, ”according to Hawaii News Now. Rear Admiral Kott said last week that the fuel was recovered “immediately” and that there was “no indication that it ended up in the well or in the drinking water”.

The leak follows a leak in May this year and another in 2020 that state lawmakers said could have been covered up by Navy officials, according to a report from Hawaii News Now.

An attorney for the Sierra Club, a national environmental organization, told Hawaii News Now earlier this year that they were “very concerned” about the age of the tanks at the Red Hill facility. “They are leaking and are located above the only aquifer on the island,” said David Frankel.

A tunnel inside the Red Hill underground fuel storage facility. The underground fuel storage facility is a national strategic asset that provides fuel for operation in the Pacific. (US Navy photo)

Since the last leak, environmental groups have called for the installation to be closed completely.

“We are done waiting for the local command of the Navy to recognize the truth, which is to say that they cannot guarantee our safety,” Wayne Tanaka, director of the Sierra Club of Hawaii, told the Hawaii Public Radio. “There have been too many leaks, too many lies exposed by whistleblowers. We can no longer rely on assurances that there is no reason to worry. “

In a press release issued Wednesday, Del Toro said that “the safety, health and well-being of our service members, civilians, contractors, their families and our communities here on Oahu is of the utmost importance to me. “.

“Our employees will always be our first priority. Their safety is paramount, ”he said. “We are aiming for a new normal: one where this will never happen again. ”

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