HomeUSA newsMore Military Families Sue Over Fuel-Contaminated Drinking Water: 'We're Just Collateral Damage'

More Military Families Sue Over Fuel-Contaminated Drinking Water: ‘We’re Just Collateral Damage’

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More than a hundred people joined a lawsuit against the US government a year after jet fuel leaked into the drinking water supply used by military families near Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, causing what many plaintiffs describe as serious and long-lasting medical problems.

“I struggle with a lot of feelings that we’ve been abandoned just to face it on our own. That we’re just collateral damage,” said Katherine McClanahan, who estimates she’s had more than 50 doctor’s appointments since drinking contaminated water while living on the base. Joint Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Katherine McClanahan, her husband and their three children gather for a family photo. McClanahan said she suffered lasting symptoms after drinking fuel-tainted water in Hawaii.
(Photo courtesy of Katherine McClanahan.)

VICTIM SPEAKS AFTER NAVY DENIED INJURIES CAUSED BY FUEL-CONTAMINATED WATER: ‘AFFECTED IN ALMOST EVERY WAY’

The updated lawsuit, announced Thursday, alleges there are leaks at the World War II-era Red Hill storage facility. near Pearl Harbor sickened hundreds of military personnel, their families, and civilians, as the Navy maintained for weeks that the water was safe to drink. He also accuses the government of destroying water samples.

Hosoda Law Group of Honolulu and Just Well Law of Austin, Texas, filed the initial lawsuit on behalf of four families in August. He accused the federal government of negligence related to the leaks and failure to promptly inform the public and asserts that the US should be held liable under the Federal Tort Claims Act.

Since then, Just Well Law founder Kristina Baehr said families have only gotten sicker, but the Navy denies their illnesses were caused by exposure.

“It’s medical gaslighting at the highest levels,” Baehr told Fox News. “And it’s forcing our customers on a wild goose chase to get the health care they need.”

While only about 100 people are currently listed on the complaint, Baehr said he represents more than 800 people overall who were affected by the spill and expects the lawsuit to grow.

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Nearly 21,000 gallons of jet fuel spilled on Red Hill in May 2021. A Navy command report stated that the amount of fuel that reached the water “cannot be calculated, but is estimated to be small.” The report further stated that the fuel could have reached the environment through evaporation or various “imperfections” in the concrete tunnel where it was spilled.

Most of the fuel was installed in the Red Hill fire suppression system, according to the Navy.

On November 20, 2021, a car hit a valve in the firefighting pipe, cracking the PVC and causing what Baehr described as a “huge explosion” of fuel. Video obtained by the Honolulu Civil Beat shows what appears to be fuel flooding a tunnel at the facility.

The command’s report does not specify how much fuel was spilled, but it does note that the Navy recovered about 12,000 gallons of fuel “immediately” after the spill.

DANGER IN THE DRINK: AFFECTED VETS FIGHT VA FOR CAMP LEJEUNE WATER POISONING

Contaminated water that reportedly sickened residents of a Hawaiian naval base and hospitalized some.

Contaminated water that reportedly sickened residents of a Hawaiian naval base and hospitalized some.
(FoxNews)

The next day, the Navy told the public that there had been a “fuel-water mixture leak” at Red Hill, but that there was no indication that it had reached the environment. He said the water was still safe to drink.

On November 27, a resident called the JBPHH public works department to report a chemical odor in the water. A day later, the department received 37 calls complaining of a fuel odor in the water.

On December 2, Navy personnel documented “observations of a fuel odor and glow” at the Red Hill drinking water well. The same day, the Navy sent out a press release acknowledging that it had detected fuel in the water.

McClanahan said his first symptoms of joint pain and shortness of breath appeared in the fall of 2021, before the second leak, and have gotten worse since then. The mother of three and wife of an Air Force reservist now calls the past year the “nightmare that won’t end.”

“We spent months being told … the symptoms are going to be short-term, they’re going to be fleeting,” he said. The Navy “admitted contamination occurred, but they won’t even admit we have disease,” he added.

The top medical adviser to the US Pacific Fleet said last March that medical providers had treated several thousand people in the days immediately following the spill. They saw symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and skin irritation, all of which were consistent with oil exposure.

“We are not seeing ongoing active symptoms,” Capt. Michael McGinnis said during a Facebook Live update on March 10. “However, we’re very sensitive to that… We’re looking at it closely to make sure we’re not missing anything.”

‘LIVES DESTROYED’: MAJOR ARMY FIXES IN FALSE ARRESTS RECORDS WON’T STOP EXPECTED LAWSUITS, ATTORNEY SAYS

Katherine McClanahan, a military wife and mother of three, says she has had more than 50 doctor's appointments in the past year.

Katherine McClanahan, a military wife and mother of three, says she has had more than 50 doctor’s appointments in the past year.
(Photo courtesy of Katherine McClanahan.)

McClanahan said he still suffers from headaches, dizziness, neurological problems and muscle tremors, but doctors have had trouble coming up with a concrete diagnosis. The symptoms are devastating for the former college swimmer, who enjoyed an active lifestyle on Oahu. However, he told Fox News that what worries him most are the many young children whose families say they have developed breathing problems, skin irritation, muscle pain and other symptoms.

“It’s heartbreaking because we don’t understand the future of the children,” he said.

The updated lawsuit also alleges that water samples taken from more than 1,000 homes were never tested for fuel and were discarded after a month in storage.

“The government destroyed evidence,” Baehr said.

On January 31, 2022, up to 3,500 gallons of water per minute were discharged from the Red Hill Well into Halawa Creek, as the Navy empties the water supply.  Hundreds of families say they got sick after drinking water contaminated with fuel.

On January 31, 2022, up to 3,500 gallons of water per minute were discharged from the Red Hill Well into Halawa Creek, as the Navy empties the water supply. Hundreds of families say they got sick after drinking water contaminated with fuel.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist Seaman Christopher Thomas)

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While speaking to Fox News, McClanahan was packing up his belongings. She and her youngest child will return to the mainland this month to try to get into a specialty care clinic.

She hopes the lawsuit brings answers and accountability.

“We want the truth because doctors right now are telling us they’re just throwing darts trying to help because they have to guess what they think was in the water,” McClanahan said. “And I want it to never happen to another family again.”

The Navy has not commented on the August lawsuit and did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the updated complaint.

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