Defense Secretary to meet with ‘impacted’ Red Hill families after criticism
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is facing criticism for not meeting with families impacted by the Navy’s water contamination during his trip to Hawaii this week, but in a late development, it turns out he’ll meet with several impacted families according to Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder.
President Biden’s top military leader is in the islands to tour the Red Hill Bulk Storage Fuel Facility and meet the new commander of the joint task force in charge of defueling, Rear Admiral John Wade.
“Following his meeting with Rear Admiral Wade, Secretary Austin will be meeting with several families tomorrow (Friday) that were impacted by Red Hill,” said Ryder in an email to Hawaii News Now late Thursday.
He did not say which families or where the meeting would be.
SPECIAL SECTION: Navy Water Crisis
In March, Austin made the decision to defuel and permanently shut down Red Hill.
Now Wade must lead a task force of more than 100 people to plan defueling the tanks. According to Austin’s earlier schedule, there were no plans to meet with impacted families.
“It’s appalling that he’s refusing to meeting with affected families, with communities, with kanaka maoli,” said Dani Espiritu, of Oahu Water Protectors.
- As Defense Secretary arrives on Oahu, families sickened by fuel-tainted water demand help
- EPA report reveals long list of violations at Navy’s Red Hill fuel facility
- ‘Do your job’: Families sickened by Red Hill fuel contamination march on DC to demand clean water
After protesting in Washington D.C. last week, the group wants Hawaii community members to be included in the task force. “These are community members who have been engaged for years in this push to defuel and decommission the facility,” said Espiritu.
Kat McClanahan says she’s dealt with balance and neurological issues since drinking the fuel-contaminated water last year at her home at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
She wants to meet with Austin.
“The exposure from the contamination has left some families still sick and still struggling to recover their health,” said McClanahan.
“If you were walking through this with your own children, wouldn’t you want to know that the very entity that caused the mistake could stand up and right the wrong?” she added.
On Friday, Austin will have a virtual meeting with Hawaii’s congressional delegation. HNN reached out to Governor Ige’s office to see if he’s meeting with Austin and is waiting to hear back. HNN also asked to meet with Austin as well, but the Pentagon said it was not able to accommodate access.
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