As he wraps up Hawaii trip, Defense Secretary says closing Red Hill is ‘the right thing to do’
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As he wraps up a Hawaii visit, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin toured the Red Hill fuel tanks facility Friday and met with families impacted by the Navy’s water contamination crisis.
But the military isn’t saying much about the sit-downs.
Austin was with commanders from U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and Navy Region Hawaii. He also met with the new commander of the Joint Task Force in charge of defueling the Red Hill tanks, Rear Admiral John Wade.
Austin appeared to have also met with five service members. In a tweet Friday evening, Austin said “defueling and closing Red Hill is the right thing to do.”
Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told Hawaii News Now that Austin met with several impacted families at Camp Smith, but he wouldn’t say how many or who they are.
Austin wanted to “listen and hear their concerns,” Ryder said.
He added the secretary believes “taking care of our families is important.”
Around 2 p.m. Friday, activists spotted a motorcade with police escort driving into U.S. Pacific Fleet Command headquarters. Earlier, other impacted Red Hill families held a peaceful protest. They were upset they didn’t get to meet with Austin, who was in the islands to strengthen ties with Pacific allies and get an update on Red Hill.
Special Section: Navy Water Crisis
“I would implore him to treat the situation like it was his family and I know how he would do that and it’s not like this. It’s not sweeping it under the rug and ignoring it,” said Heather Fisher, former Halsey Terrace resident.
“My brain is not right still,” added Samantha McCoy, former Aliamanu Military Reservation resident.
“I started having periods where I was unresponsive and within the week of moving out of the house I was starting to feel better.”
The Defense Secretary’s visit came as the state Health Department fined the Navy $8.7 million for hundreds of counts of dumping untreated or partially treated sewage into the ocean.
“The DOD is concerned with their mission. Guess what? Clean water is a national security issue,” said Lacey Quintaro, former Hickam resident.
“We just lost a lot of confidence in our military honestly that they have our best interest in mind,” added Christine Lattimer, Hickam resident.
Native Hawaiian activists built a traditional alter last December fronting the entrance to US Pacific Fleet headquarters shortly after the fuel spills and it’s still standing today.
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