Pacific edition, Thursday, May 10, 2007

SEOUL — Yongsan Garrison officials said Tuesday that the water at Hannam Village and the Army Corps of Engineers Compound is safe to drink again.

Test results released Tuesday showed no spike in mercury in the drinking water samples taken late Friday, unlike samples taken on April 6.

Seoul city, which provides the water to both installations, tested 10 locations Monday — including within the gates of each installation — and also received safe results.

“We are pleased to hear that the results from the April water samples were an anomaly,” said U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan Commander Col. Ron Stephens in a news release. “However, we will test weekly until we feel comfortable that there’s no problem.”

He added that several 1,000-gallon water trucks would remain in place at Hannam for residents to use while the garrison validates the results. Army and Air Force Exchange Service restaurants were to reopen Wednesday.

Garrison spokesman David McNally said officials were unable Tuesday to explain the reason for the April 6 test results.

Those tests showed slightly higher than acceptable levels of mercury in the water at Hannam Village and nearly five times the acceptable level at the nearby Corps of Engineers Far East District compound, officials have said.

Yongsan Garrison has tested the water monthly, sending samples to the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine at Camp Zama, Japan — not in Okinawa as officials reported earlier.

On May 4, the center called Yongsan to alert authorities to the mercury spike in the April water samples.

Yongsan officials immediately warned the community to avoid drinking the water or using it for cooking or brushing their teeth. Several 1,000-gallon water trucks were placed on Hannam Village so residents could draw clean water.

Officials took new water samples Friday and rushed them to an approved South Korean lab in Suwon. Additional samples also were sent back to Camp Zama and those results are expected no later than Thursday.

“The bottom line is, based on the test results we received tonight, the drinking water is safe at Hannam Village and the FED Compound,” Stephens said in the news release. “That is good news. The safety and security of our forces is my top priority.”

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