Secretary Del Toro Visits Red Hill
News Release from PACOM, 27 February 2022
WASHINGTON - Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro traveled to Oahu Feb. 25-28 to meet with families and senior officials and to see first-hand the progress that has been made in restoring and protecting the island’s safe drinking water.
Del Toro is returning to Hawaii following his Dec. 8 direction to pause all operations at the Red Hill Underground Storage Tanks until the completion of a Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet-led investigation into the source of petroleum products affecting the water system.
“There has been significant progress thus far to include the Hawaii State Department of Health (HDOH) amending its health advisory for two zones clearing the water for all purposes and allowing families to return home,” Del Toro said. “This situation will remain unacceptable until all of the zones are within EPA and HDOH standards and all of our families are no longer impacted. This has been a top priority for not only me, but also the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense. We are committed to bringing together the full resources of the entire DOD and our interagency partners to address the issues facing the community. Our families in Oahu deserve transparency from their leadership at every step of this process.”
Secretary Del Toro toured Red Hill again and received a detailed brief of the water system flushing, sampling, and remediation process from various members of the Interagency Drinking Water System Team (IDWST). The IDWST is a joint initiative where the U.S. Navy is working closely with the HDOH, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army to restore safe drinking water to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) housing communities and the recovery of the Red Hill water well through sampling and flushing. While touring Red Hill, Del Toro also observed the Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) water filtration system, which the Navy is using to flush and filter the Red Hill well.
“Remediating this situation is a heavy lift,” said Del Toro. “Many of our service members, civilians and families have been living in hotels since December or receiving bottled water for drinking, bathing, and cleaning in their homes. I want to personally thank them all for their patience through this unfortunate situation. Our teams are working around the clock to properly fulfill the needs of every family affected and we must continue to press forward until we have established a new normal that is better than before.”
In addition to holding a town hall with a dozen displaced and impacted families, Del Toro also visited an on-base Child Development Center and toured affected JBPHH neighborhoods, where he was able to talk and listen to civilian employees and other service members.
“Like many others, this has been challenging for my family, but we’ve adapted and are making it through,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Norma Ozuna. “I appreciate that the Secretary and other leadership from D.C. have come here to put eyes on the folks who are affected and are genuinely engaged to fix the problem.”
The Secretary also met separately with members of the U.S. Congressional delegation from Hawaii and Gov. David Ige to thank them for their engagement with the Department of Defense to remedy the situation and discuss ideas for further coordination.
“All of us are working tirelessly with a clear focus on ensuring the health and safety of the people of Hawaii, including our military families,” Del Toro said. “Despite immense challenges, we have made significant progress and we must continue to work comprehensively together if we are ever going to regain their trust.”
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