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Health officials say the water is safe to drink in all Pearl Harbor homes

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM (Feb. 2, 2022) – A Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command contractor collects a water sample. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stephanie Butler)
U.S. Navy
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM (Feb. 2, 2022) – A Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command contractor collects a water sample. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stephanie Butler)

The state Department of Health says the water in all zones of the Navy’s water distribution system at Pearl Harbor is safe to drink.

Health officials have given the green light to the last four of the Navy’s 19 water zones on Friday, saying the tap water is now safe for drinking, cooking, and oral hygiene.

Those zones are former Submarine Base Pearl Harbor, which includes the headquarters of the US Pacific Fleet; Hale Alii, Marine Barracks and Hospital Point, which includes housing for primarily Navy personnel; Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard; and Earhart Village, which provides housing for mainly Air Force and Army personnel.

That zone includes numerous schools and churches, including Mokulele and Nimitz elementary schools, and Holy Family Catholic Academy.

Hawaiʻi Department of Health

Residents of these areas will receive an email informing them that their water is safe to drink. If they moved to temporary housing during the crisis, they have two days to return home.

Authorities tested samples from 10% of the homes in each of 19 separate zones before the department gave its OK for the water in those areas. That follows a plan approved by the department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The department said it would test the water in 5% of the homes in a given zone in the first three months after it declared the water there safe to drink. It would follow that by testing the water in 10% of the homes every six months over the following two years.

Some families have expressed concern that testing a small percentage of homes wasn’t enough and said they wanted the water in all homes to be tested.

The health department said it is waiting for more data from two non-residential areas at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and Aliamanu Military Reservation before it rules on the safety of the water in those locations.

In a statement, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro thanked residents for their patience and resilience through the crisis, which began in November 2021 when fuel leaked from the Red Hill fuel storage facility into a Navy water well and into the tap water.

Nearly 6,000 people sought medical treatment for rashes, headaches, nausea and other ailments. About 4,000 people spent months living in hotels so they could have clean water.

The Navy suspended use of the affected well and has spent several months flushing clean water through its pipes, and the pipes of individual homes so families could return.

The Department of Defense said earlier this month it would shut down the nearly 80-year-old fuel storage facility amid an outcry from Hawaiʻi residents and military families.

“I can’t emphasize enough how much I admire the strength of the individuals and families impacted by this crisis,” said Hawaiʻi Deputy Director of Environmental Health Kathleen Ho. “These last amendments represent months of work to ensure that the 19 flushing zones and Manana Housing have access to safe drinking water. However, our work is not done. We will continue rigorous oversight to protect drinking water, including our aquifer, and will hold the Navy accountable to protect public health and the environment.”

Martha Guzman, an administrator with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, says officials will continue to monitor the water quality going forward.

The Associated Press reporter Audrey McAvoy contributed to this report.

Scott Kim was a news editor at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
The Associated Press is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering, supplying a steady stream of news to its members, international subscribers and commercial customers. Founded in 1846, AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, it's a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members.
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