FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii – The Navy and Army are paying the hotel bills of hundreds of families affected by oil-contaminated tap water in 10 military housing communities in Oahu, near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam .
Temporary Accommodation Authorization, or TLA, began Friday and is limited to active duty members and civilian employees living in housing in the communities of Red Hill, Catlin Park, Halsey Terrace, Radford Terrace, Doris Miller, Hale Na Koa, Earhart Village, Officer Field and Moanalua Terrace, the Navy said in a Facebook post on Friday.
Also included is the Aliamanu Military Reserve, which is administered by the Army Garrison in Hawaii.
Instructions for requesting temporary accommodation are posted on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Water Resources and Updates, a new website created to address water issues.
It’s still unclear how many households are affected and how many will be relocating to hotels on the island, most of which are in Waikiki Beach.
The army and navy trucked water to affected communities, as well as set up makeshift showers and laundry facilities.
Navy tests revealed that oil had contaminated its Red Hill well, one of three the service uses to provide water to about 7,000 households. The well was isolated from the water system on Sunday, shortly after residents began to complain about the foul-smelling water, which sometimes carried an oily sheen.
While the origin of the contamination has yet to be traced, many point to the nearby Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility.
The WWII fuel tanks, which currently hold about 110 million gallons of fuel, were dug into the mountain about 100 feet above an aquifer that provides a significant portion of the drinking water of the ‘Isle.
Critics have long called on the Navy to shut down the site permanently, but the Navy maintains it is essential to national security.
Rear Admiral Blake Converse, deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said on a live Facebook broadcast on Saturday that the Army Material Command had sent its director of operations to Oahu to help with the recovery process.
“They bring unique expertise,” Converse said. “Specifically, they brought down the commander of their Army Environmental Command who has unique experience in diagnosing and isolating and then recovering water systems with the types of complex problems we face today. hui. “
The well reclamation process “is still under development,” Converse said.
“It starts with flushing the drinking water system, and it has started,” he said. “Then it will continue with detailed flushing of local weak points and high points and in residences and all facilities which are supplied with water by the military water distribution system of the Joint Base Pearl. Harbor-Hickam. “
The Navy has also “engaged” in a technical analysis of the monitoring systems that “we may need to install to ensure the consistent and ongoing health and safety of the water system so that we do not have to worry about it. ‘future,’ Converse said.
Captain James Meyer, commanding officer of Naval Facilities Engineering Command Hawaii, expressed optimism during Facebook town hall that the Red Hill well could be fully restored.
“We think we can remove contaminants,” Meyer said.
But he added that there is “a process to be considered, if necessary”, for the establishment of a treatment plant to ensure safe drinking water for the entire system.