Families living in the military’s McGrew, Halawa, Camp Smith and the majority of Aliamanu Military Reservation are cleared to use their water once more, the Hawaii Department of Health said Thursday. The announcement cleared the largest group of residents displaced by the Red Hill water contamination crisis to return home.

Fuel from the Navy’s Red Hill storage facility leaked into a drinking well that served some 93,000 predominantly military residents, forcing thousands of families out of their homes and into Waikiki hotels. Residents of the cleared neighborhoods who choose to leave now have two days before the Temporary Lodging Allowance paying for their hotel rooms is cut off.

The Navy’s water system has been disconnected from the contaminated well and now draws from the Waiawa shaft.

The Hawaii Department of Health declared the water safe to drink in three zones: B1, G1 and H1. Hawaii Department of Health/2022

The cleared areas make up three of the 19 zones by which the Navy organized their efforts to flush neighborhoods of contaminated fluid. McGrew and Halawa comprise Zone B1 and Camp Smith is Zone G1. The 1,527 homes of Aliamanu Military Reservation were divided into three separate zones. Of those, only the 918 homes in Zone H1 have water cleared for consumption, the DOH said in a press release.

An independent laboratory initially found traces of potential carcinogen bis(2-chloroethyl)ether, BCCE, in several samples taken from Zones B1 and H1, the DOH said. After further analysis, these reports were found to be false positives, and the laboratory did not find evidence of BCCE after reviewing both the original and newer samples.

In all, the DOH has cleared eight zones with 3,012 homes, while 6,171 homes in 11 zones still await approval.

The Interagency Drinking Water System Team, composed of military officials, DOH staff and federal regulators, examined samples from over 10% of homes and 100% of child development centers before clearing zones for consumption, with plans for further testing in the future, the DOH said.

The DOH gave the green light two days after the team submitted test results for final review, significantly quicker than the military’s estimate of seven days.

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