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With some schools still unable to use their tap water, BOE takes stand on Red Hill tanks

Seven public schools have been impacted by the Navy's tainted water crisis, but so far only one has gotten the all-clear from the state Health Department.
Published: Mar. 3, 2022 at 5:31 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 3, 2022 at 6:02 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state has cleared the tap water for drinking in three more communities served by the Navy’s tainted pipes.

The three approved were McGrew-Halawa, Camp Smith and part of the Aliamanu Military Reservation. Out 20 zones, residents in 12 areas are still being told not to drink their tap water.

Meanwhile on Thursday, the Board of Education voted unanimously to support defueling the Red Hill tanks.

Catherine Payne, chair of the Board of Education, said the BOE wanted to take a stronger position on the tanks that contaminated the Navy’s water line around Pearl Harbor.

There are seven public schools that have been impacted by the Navy’s tainted water crisis:

  • Red Hill Elementary, Nimitz Elementary
  • Pearl Harbor Elementary
  • Pearl Harbor Kai Elementary
  • Iroquois Point Elementary
  • Hickam Elementary
  • and Mokulele Elementary.

Red Hill Elementary has been cleared by the state Department of Health as having drinkable water.

Pearl Harbor Kai Elementary is also in a cleared neighborhood, but the DOE says the water has not been turned on yet because internal flushing needs to be done as well as other transition processes.

Logan Okita, vice president of the teachers union, talked Thursday about the impact of the contamination on Hawaii schools.

“It’s hard to remember sometimes that the water out of the tap is not safe because out of habit you go to wash your hands there,” Okita said.

She used using bottled water has drained resources and stressed the entire school community.

“We’ve been going through this crisis since early December and even though it’s become normal in some senses, it’s not sustainable,” said Okita

Teachers and parents say they don’t know when their school’s tap water will be cleared and the commuting from Waikiki hotels has worn on families.

“Our neighborhood, the irrigation systems were just flushed within the last 48 hours,” said Melissa Milkes, parent and School Community Council chair at Iroquois Point Elementary.

“It is tiring to be continuing to go through this and to not have the answers of what the way ahead is,” she added.

Iroquois Point Elementary School is in the middle of Kapilina Beach Homes. School leaders say some families have moved out, leading to a drop in enrollment.

“We’re sad to see that because our families seem to be really happy at the school, but just because of the water situation, they’ve chosen to relocate,” said Sean Tajima, Campbell-Kapolei Complex Area superintendent.

In their resolution Thursday, the board also called on the military to reimburse schools for what they’ve spent to respond to the crisis.

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