Navy explores alternatives for clean water near Naples
NAPLES, Italy — Funds used by the Navy to provide bottled water to residents who live off base in the Naples area will dry up by early next month, but officials are exploring alternatives.
The Navy used emergency and extraordinary expense funds to pay for the water giveaway, and those funds will evaporate by early December, according to Cmdr. Jeff McAtee, a spokesman for the Naples public health evaluation.
"We are addressing this issue along several fronts and are confident U.S. personnel will continue to be provided bottled water," McAtee said in an e-mail.
Navy officials say after the funds run out, landlords for newly leased properties will be required to provide bottled water.
"[Naval Support Activity] Naples feels its personnel living in the community has a right to expect clean, safe water to drink at homes leased through NSA Housing, and that landlords have an obligation to provide it, just as they provide other services and amenities dealing with health and safety," McAtee wrote.
Navy officials did not respond by deadline to questions about whether — and how — residents who already have lease agreements will be supplied with free bottled water.
On Sept. 22, the Navy started distributing bottled water to off-base residents after traces of bacteria turned up in the tap water, prompting officials to recommend that all personnel who live off base use bottled water for drinking, cooking and brushing teeth.
Navy Secretary Donald Winter approved a Navy Region Europe request to buy about $144,000 worth of water after the bacteria was found.
During the first week of the program, residents collected more than 74,000 liters of bottled water. Each person who has a rental contract through the base’s housing office is entitled to four liters of water per day, and can draw up to a 10-day supply.
The Navy’s distribution program was designed to be a "temporary stop-gap measure," according to McAtee.
In February, the Navy launched a long-term public health analysis to see whether living in Naples poses any health hazards.
In the first phase, in which 166 off-base homes were tested, experts found the presence of volatile organic compound PCE — a chemical used for cleaning solvents — in 14 homes in Casal di Principe. In addition to the VOCs, nearly a third of homes tested indicated the presence of bacteria, including total and fecal coliform.
"At this time, there have been no reported cases associated with VOC exposure within the U.S. community in Naples," McAtee wrote.
Generally, health effects resulting from exposure to VOCs vary, depending on the material itself, length of exposure, amount of exposure, pre-existing health conditions and many other factors.
"In general, immediate effects can include eye, nose and throat irritation; headaches; nausea, memory impairment and visual disorders. Exposure to high amounts of chlorinated solvent VOCs can cause dizziness, reduce the ability to concentrate, damage the nervous system, and cause an irregular heartbeat. Longer exposures can result in damage to the liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Studies indicate that exposure to high levels of some chlorinated solvent VOCs may result in cancer," according to McAtee’s e-mail.