Home Medical Malpractice Hawaii families sue US over tainted drinking water from jet fuel at Navy’s Red Hill facility

Hawaii families sue US over tainted drinking water from jet fuel at Navy’s Red Hill facility

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HONOLULU – Four families filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the United States, alleging “negligence, trespass, nuisance, and medical malpractice resulting in physical and emotional injuries” caused by the jet fuel leaks that contaminated drinking water in Oahu.

The families are trying to hold the U.S. military accountable for tainting public drinking water with jet fuel from the Red Hill bulk fuel storage facility near Pearl Harbor.

Austin, Texas -based Just Well Law and Honolulu-based Hosoda Law Group filed the lawsuit in the District of Hawaii on behalf of the Feindt, Freeman, Simic and Wyatt families. The lawsuit was filed under the Federal Torts Claims Act, which states that the U.S. “shall be liable for actual or compensatory damages.”

The families are looking for “accountability and the truth and change,” Kristina Baehr, attorney for Just Well Law, told USA TODAY. She began filing tort claims for families this year.

This case “signifies an opportunity for change because the government is not going to make change unless they are held accountable,” she said. “They didn’t warn these families that their water was contaminated when they knew it was contaminated – that’s poisoning.”

People hold signs in front of the Hawaii state Capitol during a rally calling for the closure of the Navy’s Red Hill underground fuel storage facility near Pearl Harbor, Friday, Feb. 11, 2022 in Honolulu.

Amanda Feindt, an active military member and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, called the filing “monumental.”

“There was no sense of urgency (by the military), no accountability for (the water contamination), no apology to parents for lying to us,” she said.

Feindt said her family can’t afford testing and medical treatment caused by the contaminated water.

“Our only option is to file a lawsuit,” she said. “My thought is, if you’re poisoned by the military, you’re covered by the military for life.”

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In 2021, two jet fuel leaks occurred at the Navy’s Red Hill bulk fuel storage facility – one in May and one in November, with the latter totaling around 19,000 gallons. Due to the leaks, petroleum and other toxic chemicals entered the local water supply, which around 93,000 people use. The lawsuit alleges that the second leak was caused by a “negligent ‘operator error.'”

The Navy failed to immediately disclose news of the fuel leak to families, who continued to consume tap water. Families were often given conflicting updates about the drinking water.

Feindt told USA TODAY that her family moved into military housing at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in early May and experienced symptoms of being sick “almost immediately.” They had no idea about the May spill. “We just assumed we would be informed of any public health issue, which is anyone’s expectation, especially when you’re living on a military base,” she said.

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Since then, Feindt said her family’s life has “turned completely upside down.”

When her family felt sick, Feindt said they were denied toxicology testing by military doctors. After months of asking about safety protocols, she chose to pull her two young children – a 2-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter – out of the Child Development Center, which was also on the contaminated water line.

Following months of advocating and living in a hotel, her family was compassionately reassigned to Colorado. Her husband has had to quit his job and is unable to work because he’s “in so much pain,” Feindt said, and experiencing internal bleeding and gastrointestinal issues. As detailed in the suit, her children are experiencing “behavioral issues.”

Since March, the government has consistently said the water is safe for drinking, although many have said they continue to feel sick.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hawaii Red Hill: US faces federal lawsuit over water contamination



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