Interagency Drinking Water System Team finalizes restoration timeline, data release process

13 January 2022
The process is intended to provide residents with a more complete understanding of the steps to reach an amended health advisory.

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii – The process for drinking water flushing, sampling and testing timeline, including data release, has been finalized by the Interagency Drinking Water System Team (IDWST).

Made up of the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy, the IDWST was formed on Dec. 17 to restore safe drinking water to Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam (JBPHH) housing communities.

The process is intended to provide residents with a more complete understanding of the required steps and timing to ultimately reach an amended health advisory, and to release water sampling test results in each zone. Estimates are the best-case and timelines are subject to change.

Most importantly, satisfactory test results drive every stage of the process.

“Under this approach we are ensuring that the drinking water testing is as thorough as possible, so residents can feel reassured that the water used by their families is fully safe.” said EPA Region 9 Administrator, Martha Guzman. “EPA thanks the community for their incredible patience with our recent and future work to restore drinking water to Pearl Harbor Hickam.”

Water sampling and testing allows the entire team to identify if potential contaminates exist. The IDWST is committed to ensuring residents are informed throughout the ongoing water restoration process, as outlined in the steps below.

Step One: Distribution System Flushing

Each zone of the JBPHH water distribution system is flushed and sampled. The samples are sent to the mainland to as many as six EPA- and DOH-certified labs in order to decrease sample processing time. The IDWST reviews results and determines whether home and non-residential building flushing can begin.

Completing system flushing will take approximately 12 to 17 days to complete — depending on the size of the zone. If tests results do not meet established criteria for safe drinking water, the zone will be re-flushed and re-sampled. If water still does not meet standards, work will be paused to develop a plan of action that may include additional flushing or other water quality improvement actions.

Multiple flushing events is an action that the IDWST has planned for. The IDWST has included this necessary step to improve confidence that all drinking water standards are met.

Step Two: Residential and Non-residential Flushing

Once testing confirms the distribution system meets criteria, homes and workplaces in that zone are individually flushed. Flushing will be completed by trained teams, who will ensure consistency and thoroughness in home flushing. A representative sample of homes and buildings will be tested as well as every school, child development center, and medical facility. In all, more than 1,000 samples will be collected and analyzed.

Following strict quality control procedures and third-party review of the lab results, the IDWST will review the data. Once the team agrees that the criteria have been met and other lines of evidence have been reviewed, a recommendation to amend the health advisory will be provided to Hawaii DOH.

If results do not meet the criteria set by the IDWST, the zone will be re-flushed and re-sampled. The in-home and non-resident flushing will take approximately 25 to 27 days to complete, assuming test results don’t require re-flushing.

Step Three: Amended Health Advisory and Residents Return

Once the Hawaii DOH, EPA, U.S. Army and U.S. Navy agree that the drinking water meets the criteria for safe drinking water for that zone, the Hawaii Department of Health will conduct a final review of all the data and, if satisfied, issue an amended drinking water advisory deeming it “fit for human consumption.”

This DOH action will then trigger a number of other notifications, including, posting more information at www.navy.mil/jointbasewater that will include a link to a summary test results and a link to the complete test results for all of that zone’s flushing and sampling activities. The Navy and Army will also provide updates using social media.

Throughout the process, residents have been receiving updates from leadership and their housing companies on distribution system and residential flushing.

“We’re grateful for all federal, state and local partners, and none more so than the EPA and Hawaii Department of Health. Their diligent reviews and uncompromising testing should give everyone confidence in the process to deliver safe water and get residents back in the homes,” said Capt. Miguel Dieguez, U.S. Navy, who is on island and working in partnership with the EPA, Hawaii DOH and U.S. Army to restore safe drinking water.

For more information as it becomes available, go to: www.navy.mil/jointbasewater.

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