DOH OKs water in one Pearl Harbor neighborhood after leak

HONOLULU — The state Department of Health on Monday declared tap water in one Pearl Harbor neighborhood safe to drink more than two months after petroleum leaked from a Navy fuel storage facility, contaminated the drinking water supply and sickened thousands.

The department said residents in the Red Hill neighborhood may once again use their water. The area includes Red Hill Elementary School and 135 homes managed by the Army.


Eighteen other neighborhood zones remain under an advisory from the department saying their water is not safe to drink. The Navy’s water system serves about 93,000 people living and working in and around Pearl Harbor.

Officials came to the conclusion after verifying contaminated water was no longer entering the Navy’s water system, said Kathleen Ho, the department’s deputy director of environmental health. Officials have also flushed water pipes and tested water to make sure no contamination remains, she said.

Dr. Diana Felton, the state’s toxicologist, said trace levels of petroleum were found in one sample from the zone but did not rise above a threshold the department had set for safety.

Authorities tested samples from 10% of the homes in the zone before issuing the OK, in line with a plan approved by the department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Petroleum from the Navy’s Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility leaked into a Navy drinking water well and entered the Navy’s water system in late November. Nearly 6,000 people were treated for complaints like nausea, headaches and rashes in the weeks after. About 4,000 military families have been living in hotels since early December.

The department has ordered the Navy to drain fuel from the tanks. The military has appealed that order.

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