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Hawaii Health Department lifts ‘do not drink’ water advisory for Pearl City Peninsula

                                A hydrant pumps ground water into four large filtration tanks on Dec. 20 at the Pearl City Peninsula military housing neighborhood.
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A hydrant pumps ground water into four large filtration tanks on Dec. 20 at the Pearl City Peninsula military housing neighborhood.

Residents of Pearl City Peninsula can resume drinking and cooking with their tap water, according to the Hawaii Department of Health, which lifted its drinking water advisory for the neighborhood today.

The neighborhood of 635 homes is the second of 19 zones on the Navy’s water system that has gotten the green light to resume normal water usage since fuel from the Navy’s Red Hill fuel facility contaminated its drinking water system that serves Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and surrounding neighborhoods in November. Earlier this month, DOH said that residents of Red Hill housing, which includes 135 homes, could resume water use.

“Today marks another important step toward returning all of our families to their homes and providing all of them with safe drinking water,” said Rear Adm. Tim Kott, commander of Navy Region Hawaii, in a press release. “We still have a lot of work ahead, and I commend the Interagency Drinking Water System Team (IDWST) for working tirelessly until the health advisory is lifted for all 19 zones.”

Thousands of other households, as well as schools and businesses, remain under DOH’s drinking water advisory. State health officials continue to caution those residents not to drink or cook with the water, or use it for oral hygiene. If a fuel odor is detected in the water, residents are also warned not to use it for bathing, dishwashing and laundry.

Navy officials had hoped to quickly meet safe drinking water requirements after the water emergency began in November, but the projected dates for lifting the water warnings, and getting thousands of displaced military families back in their homes, have been continually pushed back as health officials continue to review test results.

For many of the remaining residents, DOH’s health advisory is now not expected to be lifted until mid-March, according to the Navy’s latest estimates which can be found here.

A number of zones have no estimated date for when the water advisory will be lifted, including Aliamanu Military Reservation, Catlin Park, Maloelap, Doris Miller, Halsey Terrace, Radford Terrace, Earhart Village, Makalapa, Iroquois Point, and others.

The Navy is continuously updating a map of the affected region, which details the stage the Navy is at in taking water samples and reviewing results.

In lifting the drinking water advisory for Pearl City Peninsula, DOH officials said that all 83 water samples from homes or buildings in the area came up negative for petroleum contamination.

DOH said in a press release that the decision to lift the advisory for the area that is labeled Zone A1 was made “after DOH’s multiple lines of evidence confirmed that no contamination is entering the Navy water system and no contamination remains” in the zone.

The Navy’s sampling plan, approved by DOH, includes testing 10% of homes, as well as all schools and child development centers. Sampling will continue as part of the Navy’s long-term plan to ensure the water remains safe.

While military families have grown increasingly weary of living out of hotel rooms and juggling the myriad disruptions to their normal lives, many residents have also expressed unease at going back to drinking the water. A number or residents who have returned to their Red Hill homes have told the Star-Advertiser that they continue to use bottled water for drinking and cooking.

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