Trust in short supply following heated Navy town hall over toxic foam spill at Red Hill
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An “inadvertent mishap.”
That’s how the Navy is describing the recent spill of a chemical used to fight fires at Red Hill.
What went wrong is still unclear, but Vice Admiral John Wade, commander of the Joint Task Force Red Hill, said they have ordered an investigation to find out.
Wade said the 1,300-gallon spill happened during maintenance work in November. Crews were testing the fire safety system to prepare for the defueling process.
Wade called it a significant setback.
“One, I believe it raises valid concerns for all stakeholders in the community, our elected officials, everybody about safety and controls to reduce risk,” said Wade. “But the other is it doesn’t help one bit for rebuilding trust with the community and also with our elected officials who will hold us accountable in all other concern parts.”
Navy officials say the cleanup of November’s spill is almost complete.
An engineer from Washington D.C. is assigned to figure out how the spill happened within 30 days.
Meanwhile, anger and frustration filled the cafeteria at Moanalua Middle School on Monday evening for a town hall on the situation.
Concerned residents were upset with the format of the town hall, which was decided by Sen. Donna Mercado Kim and her staff who organized the town hall.
A five-minute recess was taken right after the first question.
Protestors expressed frustrations because they wanted the mic passed around to have a dialogue.
Instead, questions were written to organizers for the moderator to read, but they didn’t get a chance to go through all of them because of time constraints.
“I really want to have the opportunity to have a productive dialogue,” said Wade. “I understand your frustration but in order for us to heal we have to talk to each other, we have to be able to listen to each other.”
Protestors held signs and asked to see the Navy’s video of the Nov. 29 spill of firefighting foam.
“Do you have an answer for that, I want to hear the answer,” said Mikey Inouye, of Oahu Water Protectors.
Wade responded that the Navy has not released the video to the public to “preserve the integrity of the investigation.”
“We did share the video with the EPA and the Department of Health, so that they can see and perhaps determine if there are any modifications to the remediation plan that we’ve worked in coordination with those stakeholders moving forward,” he added
Military families are also tired of waiting for the Navy to open a long-talked about health clinic for people who were exposed to jet fuel.
“So when are you going to open the Red Hill clinic so my son can get the care?,” asked military spouse, Lou Tuttle.
Dr. Jennifer Espiritu, chief of Public Health of the Defense Health Agency Region Indo-Pacific responded, “As I said we’re in the process of establishing our Red Hill clinic. We’re doing it deliberately so we can have a well thought out process.”
“We should start taking appointments by the end of the year and I’ll expect that we’ll start seeing patients by the beginning of the next year,” she said.
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