Some residents in Manana, a small military housing community near Pearl City, have been concerned for weeks that their water could be contaminated by fuel, but the military has maintained it found no evidence of that.

It did issue a “do not use” advisory for Manana’s water on Thursday. But it cited suspected bacterial issues as the problem, not the fuel contamination that has impacted thousands of nearby families living on the Navy’s water distribution system.

“This means that water from the tap should not be used until testing confirms a bacterial problem, at which point this may transition to a ‘boil water’ advisory until water is tested clear,” the Marine Corps said on Facebook.

The entrance to MCBH Manana Housing. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

Marine officials are confident that the potential bacterial issue is not tied to the fuel contamination because sampling by the Navy and the Hawaii Department of Health have shown “no elevated levels of hydrocarbons,” spokesman Capt. Eric Abrams said. DOH did not respond to an inquiry about that testing.

Residents in Manana Housing, near Pearl Harbor, have noticed some kind of residue floating on their water. Resident Bristin Buck-Hulin saw this sheen on Dec. 12.
Some residents in Manana Housing, near Pearl Harbor, noticed a film on their water. Resident Bristin Buck-Hulin saw this sheen on Dec. 12. Courtesy: Bristin Buck-Hulin

Manana has received its water from the Honolulu Board Supply by way of Navy pipes since mid-November. BWS says the water it provides to the military community is safe.

“Our most recent tests show no detection of bacteria in the water from our water system that serves the Pearl City community that includes the Manana Housing,” BWS spokeswoman Kathleen Elliott-Pahinui said.

Abrams said there were visual indications of a potential bacterial issue, and a recent water test detected a low level of chlorine, which is added to the water for disinfection.

“There is no petroleum present,” the Marine Corps said in a press release.

To “make absolutely sure,” Abrams said the Marine Corps took six water samples throughout the Manana community this week. It will take a week or two to process those results, which the Marine Corps will then share with the public, he said.

“Again, we do not anticipate any results outside of normal ranges for these tests,” he said.

The Marine Corps said it will continue to run a water distribution site in Manana.

“We apologize for the inconvenience,” the Marines said in the press release. “We take seriously residents’ concerns, and we are treating this matter with urgency.”

Manana resident Carrie Baker, who reported family illnesses and a fuel smell in her water last month, said she feels “cautiously optimistic” that the problem could be resolved soon.

“People are feeling relieved that they’re validating that there is an issue and they’re working on it,” she said.

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