Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin weighs in on the water contamination crisis

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Posted: Dec 13, 2021 / 4:52 PM HST
Updated: 12/13/2021 / 5:41 PM HST

WASHINGTON DC (KHON2) – Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin opens up on the water pollution crisis.

He made the following statement.

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Nothing is more important to me and this department than the health, safety and well-being of our employees and their families, as well as the residents who live in the vicinity of our facilities.

To this end, I receive daily updates from the Navy Department about freshwater contamination near the strategically important Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam – a contamination that has directly affected thousands of military personnel and their families.

More than 3,000 have been evicted from their military quarters and temporarily staying in hotels, and thousands have been examined by medical personnel.

We take this very seriously. And I am personally watching our progress and our containment efforts. In fact, the Navy leadership informs me daily about the measures they are taking to provide for affected service members and families, to restore the safety of the water system in military accommodation and to coordinate with the local authorities – especially the Hawaii State Department of Health. about the best way forward.

They also provided me with an updated status of the Navy’s investigation into the causes of this contamination and their plan to complement environmental health efforts on the island with additional resources and experts.

I fully support the Navy’s decision to suspend operations in Red Hill’s underground storage tanks while investigative efforts continue, and their commitment to conduct an independent investigation into the operations and system health of Red Hill.

I expect that the Hawaiian military leaders will continue to do everything they can – as quickly as they can – to get residents back to their homes safely and the steps they are taking to communicate clearly and frequently. I appreciate the value of their efforts to date: providing temporary housing, establishing a hotline for medical pregnancy advice, delivering more than 150,000 gallons of drinking water, and bringing additional water filtration systems to the island.

I also expect you to continue to keep Hawaiian residents, lawmakers, and leaders fully informed. Admiral Paparo, the commanding officer of the Pacific Fleet, is now the commandant on site and understands these expectations. But with that in mind, I have asked Assistant Secretary Hicks to visit the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility this week during her trip to Hawaii and to consult with Navy executives, local officials, experts, and affected employees and families.

As I said, nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our people and our neighbors. We will solve this problem safely, quickly and transparently.

Lloyd J. Austin III
Defense Minister
Department of Defense

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Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin weighs in on the water contamination crisis