Modern Day, News

U.S. Navy Jet Fuel Poisons Drinking Water in Hawaii

  • In 2021, a jet fuel tank leaked and contaminated a water well used by the U.S. Navy.
  • More than 3,000 people were temporarily relocated as they developed health concerns.
  • In August 2022, four families filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Hawaii.
  • In November 2022, another 27 families joined the case to seek compensation.
  • The Navy has begun a five-year process for the closure of the Red-Hill Facility.

A U.S. Navy investigation reported that 20,000 gallons of jet fuel had leaked into tap water supplies in Hawaii. Following the discovery, Pearl Harbor-Hickam residents filed a lawsuit in 2021. According to the reports, more than a hundred families have been affected by the leak.

The families have joined hands to sue the federal government for their inability to provide adequate health care. In addition, the carelessness of the Navy has also led to considerable financial stress for the affected.

The Red-Hill Jet Fuel Incident

The Red-Hill fuel storage facility is located in Hawaii and dates back to the World War Two era. This facility has the capacity to store 250 million gallons of fuel. Furthermore, it supports military operations in the Pacific.

In 2021, one of the jet fuel tanks leaked and contaminated one of three wells used by the Navy for its water system. The leakage led to the relocation of roughly 3,200 people to hotels on Waikiki Beach for months.

In an ongoing lawsuit, the state of Hawaii has ordered the closure of the Red-Hill facility. In March 2022, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced its permanent shutdown. The Navy has just begun a five-year-long operation for its closure.

Read More: Vietnam War Veterans Demand Pay-out for Agent Orange Disaster

Red Hill tanks on Hawaii
The Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility is located directly above an aquifer that hundreds of thousands of Honolulu residents depend upon for drinking water.

The Lawsuit

Four families filed the Red-Hill lawsuit on August 31st, 2022 in the U.S District Court of Hawaii. As of right now, the case is represented by a Texas-based firm, Just Well Law. The lawsuit demands compensation for past and future pain.

Just Well Law argues that the affected families must receive compensation for loss of income and physical impairment as well. The total demand is yet to be determined.

The case states, “While these families suffer, Navy officials continue to claim that families are not sick because of the jet fuel. To this day, military officials have denied ongoing medical harm to service members, their families, or civilians.” On November 10th, 2022, Lt. Cmdr. James Adams wrote in his email that the Navy has nothing to say on the current litigation.

Surveys by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

In February 2022, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) surveyed the houses of Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The results came out in May 2022. The survey found almost 2,000 residents experiencing one or more new health concerns. Shockingly, a significant percentage experienced worsened symptoms of pre-existing diseases.

The CDC conducted a follow-up survey in September 2022. The results were published in September 2022. The findings showed that 80% of the 986 respondents reported “health symptoms” in the last 30 days. The family members reported a wide range of illnesses. Other than seizures and gastrointestinal disorders, respondents experienced burns, rashes, open sores, thyroid abnormalities, and migraines. Moreover, some reported severe medical conditions like cysts or tumors on their organs, glands, and skin.

Read More: WW2 Shipwreck Now Leaking Toxic Chemicals

The most common symptoms were headache, anxiety, dry skin, fatigue, and insomnia. Around 65% expressed “high” or “very high” confidence that the symptoms were directly correlated to the contaminated water. 

Sample taking from the Redhill Plant.
A Navy contractor collects a water sample from the Red Hill well shaft in Honolulu, Hawaii, in support of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam’s water restoration efforts, Feb. 7, 2022. (James Mullen/U.S. Navy)

Personal Accounts

One of the plaintiffs, Richelle Dietz, has lived in Earhart Village since February 2021. Dietz developed cysts on her ovaries. Following the discovery, her doctor recommended a partial hysterectomy.

Isabel Maloon, a mother of six children with an on-duty husband, saw her family’s health decline following the contamination. Maloon confirmed that the health symptoms dissipated only after they had a trip outside Hawaii. Her personal account adds further credibility to the claims of those affected.

The lawsuit states, “Isabel is worried about the long-term consequences. As of November 2022, the family still experiences anxiety, diarrhoea, rashes, eye irritation, general malaise, hair loss, headaches, muscle and joint pain, runny noses, abdominal pain, and brain fog. In addition, Isabel has recurring yeast infections and [urinary tract infections], and her vision is declining.”

There is no questioning that affected families deserve proper compensation for their hardships. The respondents have “overwhelmingly expressed concern and frustration with communication, transparency, and trust.”