Hawaii: The lawsuit over the Red Hill water contamination crisis has drawn in more than 100 new plaintiffs


More than 100 new plaintiffs affected by water contamination at Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Hawaii have been included in a lawsuit against the United States government.

The lawsuit was originally filed earlier this year with the US District Court for the District of Hawaii, and included the names of 10 plaintiffs.

The most recent update to the document, which was filed on Thursday, includes the name of more than 100 new plaintiffs, including civilians, who claim they suffered physically, emotionally and financially after a series of failures last November resulted in a fuel leak at the facility.

“The once-healthy adults and children have been treated — and hospitalized — for seizures, gastrointestinal disorders, neurological issues, vestibular dysfunction, brain injury, impaired hearing, renal complications, skin tumors, lung damage, liver damage, kidney lesions, burns, rashes, lesions, thyroid abnormalities, migraines, baby loss, and other maladies,” the complaint stated.

A US Navy investigation found about 20,000 gallons of fuel leaked into a nearby well families relied on for water.

The Navy shut down its Red Hill well after reports came in of people living on base suffering nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches and skin-related problems. Testing revealed petroleum hydrocarbons and vapors in the water, the Navy said at the time.

Through a command investigation, the Navy found inadequate responses to the May 2021 spill and the November spill. It also found the risk could have been identified with proper training and drills following the original leak.

In March, the Defense Department announced it would defuel and permanently close the facility by August 2027. The leak, its ensuing environmental damage, and harm to surrounding communities are part of what pushed the department to make the decision.

In response to an inquiry about the updated lawsuit, the Defense Health Agency said in a statement it “is committed to the health and safety of our patients.”

There are currently plans to open a dedicated clinic for patients with symptoms related to fuel exposure in December, Whitney Trimble, chief of public affairs for the Defense Health Agency Region Indo-Pacific, told CNN Friday in the statement.

“Because there are very limited studies available on the long term health effects of exposure to petroleum products, DHAR-IP is working closely with experts from the Department of Defense, Hawaii Department of Health, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to closely track the long term health effects of exposure to fuel-contaminated water, so we can better serve patients affected by the Red Hill contamination,” Trimble said.

The updated complaint comes on the heels of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Hawaii Department of Health releasing the results of a survey of water contamination in the US Navy’s Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam drinking water system.

The survey, which had 986 participants, was conducted in September and found about 80% of respondents reported health symptoms in the previous 30 days, and 65% expressed high or very high confidence the symptoms were related to the water contamination incident.

According to the survey the most commonly reported symptoms were headaches, anxiety, dry or itchy skin, fatigue and difficulty sleeping.

Respondents also “overwhelmingly expressed concern and frustration with communication, transparency, and trust.”

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