Hawaii Says Water in Pearl Harbor Homes Is Safe to Drink

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Contractor provides monitoring of water samples at Red Hill Well in Hawaii.
A Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command contractor provides monitoring of water samples at Red Hill Well in support of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam’s water recovery efforts. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mar’Queon A. D. Tramble)

HONOLULU (AP) — The Hawaii Department of Health said Friday that the tap water in all residential areas served by the Navy's Pearl Harbor water system is safe to drink, more than three months after a petroleum leak from a military fuel tank facility sickened thousands.

Jet fuel leaked from the Navy's Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility into a Navy water well and into the tap water on and around the Pearl Harbor military base in late November. Nearly 6,000 people sought medical treatment for rashes, headaches, nausea and other ailments. About 4,000 people spent months living in hotels just so they could have clean water.

The Navy suspended use of the affected well. It spent several months flushing clean water through its pipes and the pipes of individual homes so families could live in them again.

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

The health department said it is waiting 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.

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 department has said 10% of the homes provided a representative sample of the homes in zones.

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