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A sailor walks a portion of the 7 miles of tunnels that are part of the Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility in Honolulu, Hawaii, July 17, 2020.

A sailor walks a portion of the 7 miles of tunnels that are part of the Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility in Honolulu, Hawaii, July 17, 2020. (Daniel Mayberry/U.S. Navy)

(Tribune News Service) — The Interagency Drinking Water System Team announced tonight that the Navy has completed the initial flushing of the drinking water distribution system lines serving Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and the surrounding housing areas.

The teams began flushing the water distribution lines to the first of 19 neighborhood zones on Dec. 20 in response to fuel contamination believed to have originated from the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility.

While all 19 zones have been flushed at least once, the Navy said in a news release that additional flushing may be required if sampling results indicate it is necessary.

Once testing confirms the distribution system meets the specified safe drinking-water criteria, homes and workplaces in each zone will be individually flushed, the release said. The Navy said it plans to make third-party validated results available "as soon as practicable."

The interagency team, comprising the state Department of Health, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Navy and Army, was formed Dec. 17 to restore safe drinking water to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and Army housing communities.

In late November, residents on the Navy's water system began reporting a fuel or chemical odor coming from their taps and health symptoms including headaches, rashes, vomiting and diarrhea. The Navy later confirmed that one of its drinking water wells was contaminated with jet fuel, which is thought to have come from its Red Hill fuel facility.

Several thousand military families and an unknown number of nonmilitary residents have been displaced from their homes as the Navy works to clean its pipes and ensure the water is safe to drink.

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(c)2022 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

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