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Army colonel on Red Hill Housing residents returning home months after fuel leak

Water Sample Collection in Aliamanu Military Reservation Homes army red hill
Seaman Chris Thomas/Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet
HONOLULU (Feb. 4, 2022) – Members of the Interagency Drinking Water System Team carry water sampling equipment to a resident’s home at the Aliamanu Military Reservation. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Christopher Thomas)

U.S. Army Gen. Charles Flynn issued an order Tuesday morning declaring that 135 families in the Red Hill Housing neighborhood are cleared to return home — and use their tap water.

It comes on the heels of the declaration by the state Department of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency that the flushing sampling results provided by the military were validated and safe to drink.

Flynn lifted the emergency evacuation order for this first neighborhood "zone" where predominately Army families live. There are 19 zones on the Navy water system.

It’s been almost three months since residents first raised the alarm about fuel contamination in their drinking water from the Navy’s Red Hill underground fuel storage facility.

Under the Department of Health’s emergency order, many families have been living in Waikīkī hotels while the Navy responded to the crisis.

Army Col. William "Scott" Gallaway, chief of staff of Task Force Ohana, says this first batch of families has until Thursday to return to their homes.

"So the DOH amended advisory has announced that the water is clean and safe for use for drinking. It removes or terminates that authorization for them to live in Waikīkī while we worked on the issue," Gallaway said.

"But we know that family members have work and life events and, and other things that may preclude them from going back like right away so we provide an additional two calendar days that will carry out through Thursday morning so that family members can plan their return back and so it's convenient for them," he told Hawaiʻi Public Radio.

Gallaway says that all families have been notified directly by text messages and announcements on social media.

Soldiers will also go door to door in Red Hill to welcome returning families and answer questions.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Feb. 15, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

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