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CDC urges those affected by fuel-contaminated water to participate in health survey

Navy Flushes Hickam Elementary School Water System faucet
Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeremy Lemmon Jr./Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM (Jan. 10, 2022) - A faucet is opened to flush the water system at Hickam Elementary School. The Interagency Drinking Water System Team is a joint initiative between the U.S. Navy, the Hawaiʻi Department of Health, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army to restore safe drinking water. (U.S. Navy photo)

While cleanup of the Navy water system continues, those affected by the fuel contamination are urged to take part in a health survey being conducted by the state Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A CDC team was recently on Oʻahu handing out flyers and going door-to-door in some neighborhoods, trying to drum up participation.

The survey is voluntary and personal information will be kept confidential, said Capt. Renée Funk with the National Center for Environmental Health at the CDC. The survey is also open to people who work in the Pearl Harbor area but do not live there.

"It's about a 30-minute survey, and it includes questions about the ways that they used the contaminated water, any health symptoms that they have experienced, and any medical care that they have sought," she said. "There's also questions about the impact on their children and pets, the participants' health status prior to the water contamination, and ways to contact the participant in the future."

"We'll analyze (the data) and share it with the Hawaiʻi Department of Health. They will use it to better understand the health impacts of this contamination event and help determine the next steps to protect the health of citizens who are exposed," Funk told Hawaiʻi Public Radio.

She said results are usually released about six to eight weeks after a survey closes.

Similar assessments have been conducted in places like Flint, Michigan, and at a recent chemical spill in Illinois, Funk said.

The Department of Defense is separately putting together a list of those who may have been affected.

The Navy water system serves about 93,000 people in residential homes, offices, elementary schools and businesses in and around Pearl Harbor.

Starting in late November, some residents complained that their tap water smelled like fuel, or reported physical ailments like nausea and rashes after ingesting it. Water tests subsequently found fuel contamination from various sources.

The online CDC survey for individuals and families will be available until Feb. 7. You can also call 404-567-3256 or email to sign up.

Businesses, schools and other organizations can use this survey to report the impacts of the contamination.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Jan. 27, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at
Sophia McCullough is a digital news producer. Contact her at
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