Dee Ann Koanui’s memories of the three years she spent as a child living on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina are a glorious stream of outdoor adventures.
She and her four siblings spent their days climbing trees and watching alligators at a nearby river, only returning to their four-bedroom home at the end of a cul-de-sac when night fell and the streetlights flickered on.
But Koanui’s rosy recollections were dampened when years later, in her 30s, she learned that Camp Lejeune had been the site of contaminated drinking water for decades, in part due to carcinogenic chemicals used for dry-cleaning services.
So far Koanui doesn’t know anyone personally who got sick from Lejeune, though she wonders if her exposure to toxic chemicals weakened her and her siblings’ immune systems. But the 55-year-old Kapolei resident is angry this week because she feels like history is repeating itself.
On Monday, the state told families at Pearl Harbor to stop drinking or using tap water. Residents reported smelling fuel, and some who did drink the water reported feeling sick. A University of Hawaii lab confirmed Wednesday that one specimen of water from Red Hill Elementary School contained petroleum.