- The Washington Times - Monday, December 13, 2021

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has signed off on a decision to suspend operations at an underground fuel storage tank facility in Hawaii that has been linked to the contamination of the fresh water at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

More than 3,000 military family members have been moved to hotel rooms on the island of Oahu and will remain there until the contamination has been cleaned up. Residents of Navy housing say the foul-smelling water has made their pets sick and led to cases of sore throats, headaches, diarrhea and vomiting.

In a message released Monday, Secretary Austin said he is personally monitoring the progress into mitigation efforts at the Red Hill Underground Storage Tanks.

Navy leadership updates me daily on the measures they are taking to care for affected military personnel and families, to restore the safety of the water system in military housing and to coordinate with local authorities — in particular the Hawaii State Department of Health — about the best way forward,” Mr. Austin said.

The military has delivered more than 150,000 gallons of potable water and sent additional water filtration systems to the island. Operations at the storage tank facility will remain closed pending the Navy‘s investigation and an independent study of operations and system integrity. The residents will be able to return once the water distribution has been flushed and produces water that meets EPA quality standards, officials said. 

Adm. Samuel Paparo, commander of the Navy‘s Pacific Fleet, has been appointed on-scene commander of the effort. 

“I also expect them to continue keeping Hawaiian residents, legislators and leaders fully informed,” Mr. Austin said. “Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our people and neighbors. We will solve this problem and we will do so safely, expeditiously and transparently.”

Navy officials told Hawaii state lawmakers late last week they were increasingly confident the water problems and contaminated tap water resulted from a one-time spill of jet fuel last month and not, as some feared, by a leak from aging underground military fuel storage tanks located above an aquifer.

• Mike Glenn can be reached at mglenn@washingtontimes.com.

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