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Hawaii DOH inspector detected "fuel like" odor from water at two Oahu schools

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Crews with the U.S. Navy continue to investigate why tap water at some Oahu homes that use its water have a fuel-like smell.

Crews with the U.S. Navy continue to investigate why tap water at some Oahu homes that use its water have a fuel-like smell.

Department of Health reports it received more than 100 complaints from residents so far. Kathleen Ho, deputy director for environmental health, says two crews were out collecting water samples on Tuesday. On Monday, the teams collected samples from five schools and one household.

"We're investigating the source, both the Navy and the Department of Health," Ho said. "Our inspector did detect the odor of fuel at Red Hill Elementary and at Aliamanu Child Center."

Until results of what's in the water are available, Ho's recommendation is for residents that use the Navy's system not to consume tap water. She also reported not all residents in those neighborhoods use water from the Navy.

"The source of the water is the aquifer, but there are natural barriers within the aquifer that will separate the two sources. The Navy source is different from the Board of Water Supply source."

Ho says residents who receive a Board of Water Supply bill are not on the Navy's supply.

The health department estimates about 93,000 people on Oahu use the Navy's water system. People from areas including Aliamanu Military Reservation, Red Hill and Nimitz elementary schools reported concerns with their water to the department.

Even with the on-going actions the Navy is taking, some people are still worried about their health and safety. The Fisher family lives in housing near Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, but they moved to Ewa Beach temporarily to stay with grandma since Sunday when they started noticing a gasoline like odor in their water.

"You don't see anything. I filled up a cup of warm water. I sniffed it because I was like there's no way and it burned my nose very strongly of a gas smell," Heather Marie Fisher, a concerned resident, said.

Fisher is still trying to settle down her family and two dogs into mom's three-bedroom home. She says she feels lucky they can live else where temporarily but feels there's not enough official updates for residents.

"It's really frustrating because I don't even know where to turn to to consistently listen to," she said.

Fisher says her three-year-old son Griffin experienced hives for a few days and believes it's related to the water.

"We couldn't figure out what it was. We didn't change anything, we didn't use any new soaps or lotions or sprays. There was nothing that changed in our environment that we could control," Fisher said.

Physicians have not confirmed health incidents because of on-going situation but the Health Department admits it's possible symptoms such as nausea and headache could be related to exposure to the water.

"We're taking down all complaints and we're investigating the sources," Ho said.

Fisher says until there's scientific evidence that proves the water is safe at home. She'll be staying in Ewa Beach with her family.

The Navy is asking residents in all military housing areas to flush their water lines. They can do so by running the hot and cold water at each location in their homes for at least three minutes to help move water through the system and possibly alleviate the odor.

The Navy is also flushing the main water lines several times that serve these communities. Right now, it reports no petroleum or contaminants were detected at sites, wells or tanks.

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