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4 families sue US over Navy fuel-tainted water, continued health effects

AIEA, Hawaii (Jun. 13, 2022) Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro is shown some of the items highlighted in the third-party assessment of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Hawaii. Prior to visiting the Oceania region later this week, Del Toro is in Hawaii to speak at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies and meet with local government and community leaders. (U.S. Navy Photo by Capt. Jereal Dorsey)
Capt. Jereal Dorsey/Office of the Secretary of the Navy
Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro is shown some of the items highlighted in the third-party assessment of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Hawaiʻi. (Jun. 13, 2022)

The U.S. Navy “harbored toxic secrets” when jet fuel contaminated drinking water for 93,000 military members and civilians in Hawaiʻi, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday from four families who say they're still suffering from seizures, gastrointestinal disorders and neurological issues.

Hundreds of additional claims are expected from those who ingested the toxic water, said the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Honolulu. Others going through the administrative process of the Federal Tort Claims Act will be added to the lawsuit.

At least twice last year, thousands of gallons of jet fuel from the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, a massive World War II-era military-run tank farm in the hills above Pearl Harbor, leaked into a well that supplied water to homes and offices in and around the sprawling base.

A Navy investigation blamed the water crisis on shoddy management and human error.

“Because government personnel then failed to disclose those leaks as required, the plaintiffs continued to ingest jet fuel and became sick from that exposure," the lawsuit said. "Instead of promptly and appropriately addressing the harm, government officials conducted a woefully inadequate clean-up and clearing effort, while government doctors provided medical care far below the standard of care.”

The Navy said in a statement it doesn't comment on ongoing litigation. “The Navy’s priorities are to ensure the safety and health of our people, their families, and the community members impacted by the Red Hill fuel spill, provide responses to their concerns, and ensure access to clean drinking water,” the statement said.

Each family lived in a home at or near Pearl Harbor with water provided by the Navy. The families include a mother who is a major in the Army, a father who is an active-duty Navy ensign, a father who is a senior chief petty officer in the Navy, and a father who is an active-duty technical sergeant in the Air Force, according to the lawsuit.

The families have since left Hawaiʻi.

They are asking for monetary awards to be determined at trial for damages including pain and suffering, mental anguish and medical expenses.

Read the lawsuit below or click here to open a new window.

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