Displaced military families return home, but support continues amid Hawaii water crisis

All 19 areas within the Hawaiian Navy water system have declared water safe to drink, and displaced residents have left hotels and moved home, but this is not the end of the service’s support for the Navy, Army and Air Force, officials said. family.

“It has been a long journey to get us to this point, and I want to thank each and every one of you for your persistence and hard work in getting us to where we are today,” said Navy District Chief of Staff, Captain Darren Guenther. Hawaii, in a live update for Facebook residents on March 21. Families will still have access to resources and water will continue to be tested and monitored, he said.

On March 18, the Hawaii Department of Health declared the water in the final four areas safe to drink, bathe, cook and clean after reviewing test results from samples taken in those areas. Its ruling came after a massive flush of the Navy’s water distribution system, including all homes and other buildings.

A “rapid response team” has been set up to respond to residents reporting water problems. Officials have reminded residents to start using their water to run every faucet for 15 minutes, including hot water taps, to remove sediment that may have built up in stagnant water.

The call center can help residents with various issues related to the water crisis. This includes questions about monetary claims, such as temporary accommodation allowances for 3.5 months of hotel stays and reimbursement for items that must be replaced due to fuel-contaminated water damage, such as baby bottles and pacifiers, water filters and plastic items that have come into contact with water.

Free water at the Pearl Harbor Naval Exchange and Mackay Recreation Center will continue through March 29. For residents who choose to stay at home until the restoration process is complete, the military has provided free bottled and bulk water.

About 9,715 homes were affected by a fuel leak entering the Navy’s water distribution system. Navy officials said it may have been a fuel spill on Nov. 20, in which an unknown amount of JP-5 jet fuel appeared to have entered the Red Mountain oil well in one incident, from which it was then pumped and distributed in parts. Navy water system.

On November 28, family members of the military reported smelling fuel and seeing slicks of oil in the tap water. But some people report mysterious symptoms, such as abdominal pain, vomiting, memory loss, rashes, eye irritation, and tooth and gum problems, even before signs of fuel appear. In early December, the Navy and Army offered families the option of staying in government-funded hotels during water restoration efforts. Some families have opted to stay at home and enjoy military-provided water, showers and laundry services.

“We all recognize this has been a difficult time for these families and would like to thank them again for their patience and resilience,” Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro said in a statement on restoring water. “If they have any concerns or issues with water when they move home, I ask them to contact the Rapid Response Team immediately.”

Three days after the flush was completed, the Interagency Drinking Water Systems Team determined the safe water claim after sampling and testing 10 percent of households and 100 percent of schools and child development centers in each area. Families questioned why only 10% of households were tested. Navy officials responded that the Environmental Protection Agency normally recommends testing 5 percent of homes after a flush, but in this case decided to test twice that number — 10 percent.

The Hawaii Department of Health said in a statement that the joint program to sample and test water “provides accurate data to determine that water is safe in all homes and buildings.” The Interagency Drinking Water Systems Team is led by Hawaii Health Department of Defense, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Army, and Navy. It was established Dec. 17 to restore safe drinking water to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and Army housing communities.

“I cannot overemphasize how much I admire the strength of individuals and families impacted by this crisis,” Kathryn Ho, associate director of environmental health in Hawaii, said in the department’s statement. She said the statement on the final four districts Represents “months of work” to ensure 19 areas have safe drinking water.

“However, our work is not done,” she said. “We will continue to provide rigorous oversight to protect drinking water, including our aquifers, and will hold the Navy accountable for protecting public health and the environment.”

Karen has covered military families, quality of life, and consumer issues for the Military Times for more than 30 years and is a co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book Battle Plans to Support Military Families. She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Florida, and Athens, Georgia.

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