After 2 Months, Some Pearl Harbor Residents OKed to Resume Using Tap Water

Hawaii's state Department of Health announced that a neighborhood near the Pearl Harbor military installation can use tap water again more than two months after a Navy fuel storage facility leaked petroleum in November, contaminating the water.

The department said Monday residents in the Red Hill neighborhood, consisting of an elementary school and 135 homes, can use their tap water. However, eighteen other neighborhoods are still under an advisory that their water is not considered safe to drink, the Associated Press reported.

Roughly 4,000 military families have been displaced from their homes and living in hotels since early December, the AP added. Ultimately, nearly 6,000 people were treated for symptoms like nausea, vomiting, headaches and rashes attributed to drinking tap water in the weeks after the leak.

In late November, jet fuel leaked from the Navy's Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility and contaminated the drinking water of up to 93,300 homes outside Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu. Eight days later, families began complaining of noxious odors coming from their tap water, which had an oily sheen, the Washington Post reported.

The Navy initially dismissed the concern, telling families the water was safe to drink, but has since apologized, NPR added.

Officials have now confirmed that the contamination is no longer entering the Navy's water system, the AP reported. The pipes have been flushed, and the water has been tested to make sure it is no longer contaminated, said Kathleen Ho, the department's deputy director of environmental health.

Authorities tested samples from 10 percent of homes in the area before giving the OK to allow residents to use the tap water. Hawaii's toxicologist, Dr. Diana Felton, said trace levels of jet fuel were found in one of the samples, but they was not over what the department deems a safe level, AP reported.

The department said it would test the water in 5 percent of homes for the first three months, then 10 percent of homes every six months over the next two years. However, some families said testing such a small number of homes in the area isn't enough and that all of the homes' water should be inspected. Felton said testing 10 percent of homes was a representative sample, AP reported.

The Navy hasn't determined how the petroleum entered the water, but officials are investigating a theory that a pipe rupture from last May leaked jet fuel that entered the fire suppression system drain pipe. The fuel then could have leaked from the second pipe on November 20 and entered the drinking water supply, ABC News reported.

Update 2/15/2022 3:40 p.m.: This story has been updated to provide additional details.

Pearl Harbor Residents, Contaminated Tap Water
Hawaii's Department of Health cleared one Pearl Harbor neighborhood to safely drink their tap water Monday after more than two months following a Navy fuel storage facility petroleum leak. Above, a glass under a faucet is pictured. Martin Bernetti/ AFP/Getty Images