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87% of CDC survey participants reported health symptoms from Red Hill water contamination

Red Hill Well navy water test 021622
Petty Officer 2nd Class MarQueon/Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet
AIEA, Hawaii (Feb. 16, 2022) A Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command contractor pours a water sample to conduct real-time monitoring at Red Hill Well. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mar’Queon A. D. Tramble)

A state Department of Health and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey is beginning to expose the health impacts on military residents after the Navy Red Hill fuel storage facility leaked into the Navy's water system last year.

About 87% of 2,289 people surveyed in January and February self-reported at least one new or worsening health symptom following the water contamination in November 2021. Many indicated nausea, skin rashes, fatigue and headaches.

Over a third had to seek medical treatment. Some people said they worry that they will face long-term health ramifications.

Of the symptomatic survey participants, 80% saw improvement in health after switching to an alternative water source.

But the full scale of health impacts may still be unknown since only 14% of households affected by the contamination responded to the survey.

“This incident was unprecedented and impacted the lives and health of thousands of people,” Deputy Director of Environmental Health Kathleen Ho said in a release. “This survey helps to quantify their experiences. We are committed to continuing to work with ATSDR to search for answers on how the Navy’s contamination of its drinking water system impacts health and wellbeing.”

Over half of respondents indicated noticeable water contamination, whether that was a petroleum smell or taste of a visible oily sheen to their water.

The tap water has been deemed safe to drink in all affected areas since March.

The Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam water system supplies an estimated 9,694 civilian and military households, according to the health department.

Initial survey results were published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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