State and federal agencies established a new working group Friday to respond to the Navy water crisis at Red Hill.

At least 93,000 residents who rely on the Navy’s water system have been unable to drink it since it became apparent the Navy’s drinking water well at Red Hill was contaminated with fuel in November. The well is not far from the Navy’s underground fuel storage facility which holds 180 million gallons of jet fuel.

The Hawaii Department of Health, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Navy and Army announced Friday they are forming a new working group called the Interagency Drinking Water System Team, according to a joint press release from all four agencies.

The overarching goal of the team includes ensuring Hawaii residents can access safe drinking water and responding to community concerns. The team will also pursue a plan to sample and test groundwater and drinking water. The group further will be responsible for agreeing upon and implementing a plan to flush contaminants from the system.

Military personnel and staff applaud after documents were signed in a bried ‘photo op’ held by the US Navy. December 17, 2021
Military personnel and staff applaud after documents creating an interagency drinking water recovery plan were signed in a brief photo op held by the U.S. Navy on Friday. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

“This interagency drinking water system team will ensure we stay tightly aligned as we step through the recovery process together,” Rear Adm. Blake Converse, deputy commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in a press release.

The group signed a water sampling plan this week that involves sampling at several wells, including the Waiawa Shaft, Halawa Shaft, and Red Hill Shaft.

The city shut down the Halawa Shaft after the Navy confirmed its Red Hill Shaft was contaminated with petroleum.

The water sampling plan calls for identifying which contaminated locations should be prioritized for flushing, following an approved plan and subsequent testing.

The water sampling plan also involves collecting and analyzing drinking water from a random sample of homes and buildings and continuing to test drinking water samples for two years after residents return to their homes. An estimated 3,000 people have been displaced since the water crisis began.

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