Oil spill in Hawaii has military families concerned

(CNN) — A massive oil spill in Hawaii has led to complaints from military families of a foul smell, oily sheen on the ocean and cloudy taps in their homes.

The Hawaii Department of Health says 200 barrels of oil leaked into the Honolulu Harbor water supply, causing flumes to discharge oil over the weekend into the ocean.

But Michael Jones, director of the Department of Defense Information Systems Agency, the contractor responsible for the spill, downplayed its severity.

“The oily sheen and any smell to the water are not hazardous,” he said. “It’s not a health risk, and we don’t anticipate there will be any lasting impact to the harbor supply.”

Jones told CNN that the spill lasted less than two hours, and that the oily sheen is only visible at the surface.

However, Hawaii Department of Health Communications Director Janice Okubo said the sheen extends farther down into the harbor water than investigators realized, and is posing a health hazard.

“There have been complaints of a pungent fishy smell in the harbor, but there are more likely health concerns associated with the sheen covering some portions of the harbor,” she said.

And Tod Tamberg, director of environmental remediation at the Department of Health, said oil “has been dispersed into the deep water” and caused the sheen on the surface to dissipate.

Jones said the spill does not appear to be affecting residential water supplies.

The fleet

According to Jones, there was a delay in responding to the spill because the contractor providing services for the Hawaii Defense Force, the home base for the military, had equipment that has been out of commission because of a technical issue.

Jones said the teams from the Department of Defense Information Systems Agency were on the scene to clean up, but it will be weeks before the damage is repaired.

Jones said the Department of Defense Information Systems Agency is monitoring the harbor, and efforts are being made to ensure the facility “seems to be back to normal operations.”

The accident happened while crews were removing oil filters from a water processing machine on the east side of the harbor.


A large sign visible in the background of this picture shows the properties impacted by the oil spill.

“In regard to operations in the harbor, we continue to monitor the harbor closely,” said Jones. “We will work diligently to immediately mitigate the damage to the harbor and ensure the population has the reliable water supply they rely on.”

Osteoporosis among elderly

At the businesses impacted by the spill, the business owner responded positively.

“I heard about it, and we’ve been cleaning the mess, trying to fix it,” said Michael Oluwole, owner of Flexible Vision by Michael Oluwole.

The waterfall that flows through the store, and down to the water pool, smelled like diesel.

Oluwole said the flood of interest has led to an uptick in business, but he said what he doesn’t want to see is debris washing up in front of his store.

“As long as it doesn’t soak up into our establishment — our tap water, what we rely on for our business,” he said.

According to Okubo, the nearest alternate water supply sources are Wheeler Dam, which is at least a mile away from the affected area, and a mile east of the main water supply in Waikiki.

According to an alarming report from the United States Osteoporosis Foundation, there are more than 18 million people in the United States living with osteoporosis, which is a progressive disease of weak bones.

Osteoporosis poses a threat to the elderly as the disease causes bones to weaken, according to the report.

“Individuals with osteoporosis have decreased bone density, which can result in unnecessary breakage, fracture, or arthritic pain,” the report said.

The report also said that more than one third of the elderly people living with osteoporosis can expect to have a bone fracture during their lifetime.

According to the Department of Defense Information Systems Agency, Hawaii Defense Force houses more than 200 individuals, and in 2017 more than 16,500 people operated as military members.

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