By Associated Press - Tuesday, December 14, 2021

HONOLULU — U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said he is monitoring the Navy‘s handling of jet fuel contamination in its Pearl Harbor drinking water system.

In a statement Monday, Austin said he is “personally monitoring” the situation at a fuel storage facility in Hawaii, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

“Nothing is more important to me or to this Department than the health, safety and well-being of our people and their families, as well as that of residents living near our installations,” Austin said.

Austin said Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks will visit site this week. She will meet with Navy officials, state leaders and families affected by the fuel-tainted water.

“My expectation is that military leaders in Hawaii will continue to do everything they can - as fast as they can - to return residents safely back to their homes and to communicate clearly and frequently the steps they are taking to do so,” Austin said.

About 3,000 people have been removed from affected military housing. The Navy‘s water system serves military families, several schools and some commercial properties.

Last week, Hawaii Gov. David Ige ordered the Navy to empty its Red Hill fuel storage tanks, located above an aquifer. The Navy said it will challenge the order.

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