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Hawaii officials lift ‘do not drink’ water order for 3 more areas on Oahu

The Hawaii Department of Health today lifted its “no not drink” advisory for three more zones on the Navy’s water system, which includes McGrew, Halawa, Camp Smith and a portion of Aliamanu Military Reservation. The area includes more than 1,100 homes.

A dozen more zones on the Navy’s water system are still awaiting clearance from DOH. The zones declared safe today by state health officials are labeled Zones B1, G1 and H1.

DOH’s “do not drink” advisory was issued in late November after fuel from the Navy’s Red Hill fuel facility contaminated its drinking water system, which serves Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and surrounding neighborhoods.

For the last three months, the Navy has been working to clean up the contamination by flushing its distribution lines and individual homes, schools and businesses. Extensive water sampling is being overseen by an Interagency Drinking Water System Team, composed of representatives from DOH, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Navy and Army, with DOH giving the final approval to lift its health advisory.

DOH said that one sample collected from Zone B1, which includes McGrew and Halawa, initially tested above the DOH’s limited for bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, also known as DEHP. The home was reflushed and resampled and determined to be safe, according to DOH.

DEHP can be found in plastic products and has been linked to an increased risk in cancer, birth defects and other reproductive harm.

DOH didn’t immediately respond to questions about the potential source of the DEHP that was initially found in the water sample or how residents can be assured that it is not more widespread.

The water sampling includes testing 10% of homes and all schools and child development centers on the Navy’s water system, which serves approximately 93,000 people. The Navy is also required to conduct long-term sampling as part of a monitoring plan.

“DOH and EPA oversaw months of work to provide individuals and families in Zones B1, G1, and H1 with assurance of safe drinking water,” DOH said in a press release. “This included overseeing flushing operations to confirm that the Navy followed flushing and testing protocol to verify that contamination was removed from the drinking water system.

DOH said that the long wait time for issuing clearances to other neighborhoods is due to the volume of sampling that is required.

“There are two processes that require time: flushing out the Navy’s system, and sampling and testing the water at various points throughout that system,” said DOH spokeswoman Katie Arita-Chang by email. “Given the scale of this operation – millions of gallons of water, miles of pipes, and thousands of samples being tested in labs that are already stressed– lab results and other information are being returned for different zones at different times. Our obligation is to the well-being of impacted residents, so we ask for their continued patience as we work as fast as we can within these constraints.

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