The Navy said on Tuesday that a chemical used to make pesticides and paint varnish was incorrectly detected in water samples from the Navy’s water system and that the chemical was actually not present after all.

An independent, third-party laboratory incorrectly reported the presence of bis(2-chloroethyl)ether, BCEE, in 12 samples collected from Jan. 6 through Jan. 12 from fire hydrants in eight different flushing zones, according to the Navy.

BCEE is a “colorless, nonflammable liquid with a strong unpleasant odor” that dissolves in water and can cause ear, nose and throat irritation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC has classified it as a “probable human carcinogen.” BCEE is not an ingredient of JP-5, the kind of jet fuel that contaminated the Red Hill well.

The Interagency Drinking Water System Team, which is made up of the Navy, Army, Hawaii Department of Health and U.S. EPA, investigates each lab result that exceeds drinking water standards, the Navy said.

“As part of the investigation, the Navy resampled all locations where BCEE was initially detected,” the Navy said. “The laboratory reviewed the original samples and the new samples, and did not detect BCEE in any of them. The IDWST investigation determined, in agreement with the laboratory, that the initial BCEE results were a false-positive.”

The Navy said that the laboratory has taken unspecified “corrective actions.”

“Based on these results, there is no concern for health risks from BCEE in the drinking water,” the Navy said.

The DOH public health advisory is still in effect for the eight zones in which BCEE was mistakenly reported, the Navy said. Those users should not use the water for drinking, cooking, or oral hygiene.

An Important Note

If you consider nonprofit, independent news to be an essential service that helps keep our community informed, please include Civil Beat among your year-end contributions.

And for those who can, consider supporting us with a monthly gift, which helps keep our content free for those who need it most.

This year, we are making it our goal to raise $225,000 in reader support by December 31, to support our news coverage statewide and throughout the Pacific. Are you ready to help us continue this work?

About the Author