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Military, EPA, health officials create interagency partnership to address contaminated water

Joint Water Distribution System Recovery Plan Agreement signing ceremony navy red hill contamination
Tech. Sgt. Nick Wilson/Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet
HONOLULU (Dec. 17, 2021) – Joint Service and civilian senior leaders from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, stand together after a Joint Water Distribution System Recovery Plan Agreement signing ceremony at U.S. Pacific Fleet Headquarters. The JBPHH water quality recovery is a joint U.S. military initiative working with the State of Hawaii, Department of Health, Honolulu Board of Water Supply, U.S. government and independent organizations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nick Wilson)

The U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Health on Friday announced the creation of an interagency partnership to restore clean drinking water to the Pearl Harbor area.

Officials say the Interagency Drinking Water System Team was created to coordinate the actions of agencies and ensure that clear information is being disseminated to the public.

One of the main complaints by residents concerns mixed messaging and contradictory information coming out from the various stakeholders. That includes statements on issues such as water testing, flushing the Navy’s distribution system, which wells are contaminated, the timeline for the return of residents to their homes, and more.

The interagency team has developed a plan that coordinates the testing of water samples to determine when it is safe for human consumption.

Officials such as U.S. Senator Brian Schatz have called for the EPA to take a more proactive role in the crisis, saying they have the resources and expertise to lead the recovery effort.

Deborah Jordan, an acting EPA regional administrator, says the sampling plan will ensure there is uniform agreement on what standards have to be met before water restrictions are lifted.

Scott Kim is a news editor at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Contact him at
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