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US military to close fuel storage facility in Hawaii where water was contaminated by leak

<i>Shannon Haney/US Navy/AP</i><br/>Overhead lights illuminate a tunnel inside the Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility in Pearl Harbor
Shannon Haney/US Navy/AP
Overhead lights illuminate a tunnel inside the Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility in Pearl Harbor

By Ellie Kaufman, CNN

The Department of Defense will close the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Hawaii permanently, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Monday.

The facility was temporarily closed after water was contaminated by a petroleum leak from the facility that sickened military families and children in Hawaii in November.

The facility will be defueled and closed permanently, Kirby said. The fuel will be repositioned in “a few locations,” Kirby said.

The incident in November left thousands of military families and people in the local community in Hawaii without safe drinking water.

The fuel facility sits 100 feet above the Red Hill aquifer, which supplies drinking water to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and other parts of Hawaii. Nearly 1 million people on Oahu rely on it for water, according to the Hawaii Board of Water Supply.

Kirby said the military is committed to mitigating the impacts of the November incident.

“We are restoring safe drinking water to all residents, and we’re providing best in class sampling and testing to ensure the continued safety of the drinking water,” Kirby said.

The Commander of US Pacific Fleet has ordered a “command investigation” into the November incident, Kirby added.

“When that review is complete, the Navy will publicly release the report and continue to work closely with the Department of Health in Hawaii about pursuing follow on actions, that work continues,” Kirby said.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement that closing the facility is “the right thing to do.”

“When we use land for military purposes, at home or abroad, we commit to being good stewards of that resource. Closing Red Hill meets that commitment,” he said.

The Defense Department will also create an “environmental mitigation plan” to address any future contamination concerns, Austin said.

“We will continue our work with the Hawaii Department of Health, national and local elected officials, and other community leaders, to clean up the water at the Red Hill well. And we will develop an environmental mitigation plan to address any future contamination concerns,” he said.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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CNN’s Steve Almasy contributed to this report.

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