Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Community
The Red Hill Water Crisis Lawsuits Are Underway
If you’re still wondering what’s being done about the Navy-poisoned Hawaii drinking water, we have an obvious update: lawsuits. It was bound to happen, and now four families are claiming that the Navy “harbored toxic secrets” in a federal lawsuit over the Red Hill Water Crisis. The potential negligence of the U.S. Navy could open the door to a hefty judgment, as around 4,000 families had to leave Joint Base Pearl Harbor–Hickam as a result, and around 6,000 people suffered various adverse health effects.
Red Hill Water Crisis Lawsuits Are Here
The Red Hill Water Crisis in Hawaii continues to be an issue affecting thousands of families. The Hawaii jet fuel leak from the Navy could have contaminated the area’s drinking water. Jet fuel in Hawaii water is the prevailing thought as to what caused the Red Hill Water Crisis, which is now leading to lawsuits.
While more are expected to follow, the current lawsuit has four families seeking compensation. The plaintiffs’ attorney, Kristina Baehr, says the families claim the Navy knew the Red Hill fuel facility was not operating safely and failed to announce the leak in time.
“Our clients want accountability and truth…They know that Red Hill is just the next event in a long legacy of toxic exposures caused by the government. They know that their families are at risk of serious future harm, just like the families at Camp LeJeune, and they ask the United States to make it stop,” Baehr said via email.
In May and November 2021, nearly 20,000 gallons of fuel spilled from the Navy’s aging Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility. A buildup of sediment in sumps and pipes at the facility was caused by the May leak. The fuel spill contaminated local drinking water after one of the pipes burst after being rammed by a worker in November.
Beyond the displacement from their homes, reimbursement is also being sought, as many believe the Navy has failed to adequately help Sailors and their families in terms of medical care.
Despite the difficulty that comes with litigation against a U.S. government organization, Baehr believes the case can use the Federal Tort Claims Act as a gateway to receive the compensation her clients deserve.
“There were a lot of kids, a lot of families who were affected by the negligence of federal officers at Red Hill and they have a claim against the United States for the harm,” Baehr said.
Matters are a bit complicated no matter what, however. Active-duty members of the U.S. military are unable to sue due to the Red Hill Water Crisis or for any reason due to illness or injury. Known as the Feres Doctrine, this legal precedent hinders a troop’s ability to take legal action while serving.
What Is Federal Tort Claims Act Coverage?
An act established by the federal government in 1946, the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), provides a legal method for compensating individuals who have suffered injury, death, or damage to their property as a result of negligent or wrongful acts or omissions by federal government employees.
Federal Tort Claims Act coverage will come in handy if the plaintiffs are able to prove that the Navy acted in negligence leading to the contamination of the water.
The Red Hill Water Crisis may have caused everything from headaches and dizziness to severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. These symptoms and the worry that additional adverse health effects could be on the horizon are exactly why the FTCA is being used to show the role the Navy played in the harms that continue to befall troops and their families.
More Expected To Join Red Hill Crisis Lawsuit
Physicians have already determined that some suffering from unexplained, adverse health effects came from contaminated water. Lawsuits have begun. Now, it’s only a matter of time before more come.
Attorney Baehr believes so, too, which is why she has listed the plaintiffs as “Jane and John Doe 1-500” in anticipation of more people joining in.
As additional information comes to light, this looks more and more troublesome for the Navy. “Faith, Courage, Service true, with Honor, Over Honor, Over All” are lyrics found in the Navy’s official fight song. There is no honor in neglecting the brave Sailors that defend our country, and the Red Hill Crisis could prove that the branch has significant room for improvement.
Image: Honolulu Civil Beat