Still suffering illnesses, Hawaii families go after the Navy over Red Hill water contamination

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Over 100 military and civilian families have filed Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) SF-95 claims over water pollution at the Red Hill fuel storage facility in Pearl Harbor.

On Monday, May 9, 120 clients represented by Austin, Texas-based Just Well Law and Honolulu-based Hosoda Law Group filed these claims, alleging that the Navy released kerosene and other contaminants directly into its drinking water on at least two occasions 2021 and has not fully disclosed the scope of the contamination.

Get Hawaii’s latest morning news in your inbox, subscribe News 2 you

Attorney Kristina Baehr provided the following statement to KHON2:

“A year ago, the Navy had a chance to put this right and stop our customers from drinking water that the Navy knew was contaminated. They didn’t. Our customers will face the health consequences for the rest of their lives. And their claims will hold the Navy accountable for that damage. That’s what the Federal Tort Claims Act was designed for.”

Kristina Baehr, Just Well Law

Lawyers representing these families said many of them continue to suffer from a variety of illnesses and are at risk for vision and hearing impairments, neurological effects and immune disorders.

In a letter accompanying the SF-95 filings, attorneys Kristina Baehr, James Baehr and Lyle S. Hosoda wrote to Navy Vice Admiral Darse E. Crandall:

“The lack of transparency persists. The Navy refuses to release test results from our customers’ drinking water in November and December 2021 – before the flush. Although we know that hydrocarbon levels were high, the Navy chooses to keep these families in the dark as to the extent of their toxic exposure. And the Navy still refuses to conduct even the most basic medical screening to document exposure and care for those affected.”

The letter alleges military contractors failed to diagnose assignable symptoms or conduct standard toxicology labs to check liver function, kidney function and complete blood counts. Attorneys said their clients who left Oahu received adequate care from civilian providers.

The Navy is suspending use of Red Hill fuel tanks as it continues to struggle with water system contamination

Read her letter to the Navy below:

Attorney Kristina Baehr told KHON2 on Monday, May 9 that she received three more applications on Friday, bringing the total to 120.

Among the 120 claims, attorneys shared some stories from their clients that illustrate the extent of their illnesses. One of them is Jeff Fritz, who served in the US Army as a Distinguished Officer for 26 years. He toured Iraq and Afghanistan before retiring as a lieutenant colonel.

His attorneys said a few months after he and his wife moved into their military residence at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Jeff experienced serious health complications last summer, including blurred vision, headaches and abdominal problems. According to Jeff’s attorneys, his VA doctors found skin cancer under his left eye, which was surgically removed.

Lawmakers are considering closing the Red Hill fuel facility

“When the Navy announced the fuel leak, Jeff’s world was turned upside down,” the letter reads. “Not wanting to risk his wife’s health, he flew her off the island on his own. He told his children not to visit him. After a second skin lesion was discovered on his cheek and his doctors raised concerns about the ongoing symptoms and contaminated water, Jeff had to give up his retirement dream. He was forced to quit a job he loved and move away from contamination, spending tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket.”

According to the law firms, pollutants are still present in the air from tested military shelters and the families who have withdrawn are experiencing renewed symptoms.

BWS explains request for water conservation on Oahu

“Families continue to see a glow in the water, suffer from rashes and burns and other direct symptoms,” the letter said. “Because the pipes, water heaters, appliances and other plastics were never replaced, these homes are still contaminated — even if the water source were clean even now.”

“Our investigation continues, but the process of providing our clients with adequate medical care, safe housing and justice has moved forward with these SF-95 filings,” Baehr said. “We now have test results showing the homes are still not safe and that the pollutants have been released into the air. The air in these homes has not been cleaned and the Navy has refused to move people to other accommodations.”

Check out the test results below:

Check out more news from Hawaii

Baehr is urging the Navy to release all test results, provide adequate screening and testing, and ensure these families have the information they need to make a decision about their medical care.

You might also like

Comments are closed.