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US Government on Trial over Jet Fuel Spill, Honolulu Drinking Water Contamination

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Clear Facts

  • The U.S. government is on trial in a U.S. District Court in Honolulu for leaking jet fuel from a military storage site that contaminated drinking water affecting thousands over two years ago.
  • Seventeen bellwether plaintiffs, representing over 7,500 individuals including service members, argue that the fuel spill from the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility contributed to adverse health effects such as rashes and vomiting. The U.S., while admitting the leak caused compensable injuries and breached its duty of care, disputes that the victims were exposed to the poisoned water at levels significant enough to cause the reported health issues.
  • The Navy, accused of being aware of the spill but failing to inform or warn residents, completed the draining of the fuel tanks in March in response to concerns raised by Hawaii residents about their water supply.

The U.S. government is standing trial in Honolulu for a case that unfolded over two years ago revolving around a jet fuel leak from a military storage site. The leak contaminated drinking water for thousands of individuals.

Seventeen bellwether plaintiffs, representative of over 7,500 people comprising service members, are seeking to establish in court that the jet fuel spill from the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility directly caused a series of health effects, including rashes and vomiting. While the U.S. government acknowledges that the jet fuel leak caused compensable injuries for the plaintiffs and that it “breached its duty of care,” it contests the claim that the alleged victims consumed the poisoned water at levels sufficient to cause the health issues reported.

“Nastasia Freeman, wife of a Navy lieutenant and mother of three, wrote. ‘I had developed a rash on my arms with sores and lesions on my scalp, feet, and hands accompanied by a headache,’. ‘I had a very strange sensation that I had never had before — I felt like my blood was on fire.’”

Freeman discovered from a nurse that other families in the area had reported similar complaints, with the common factor being the tap water.

Lawyers for the alleged victims argue that the Navy knew about the fuel spill that had contaminated the area’s drinking water supply but did not inform residents or warn them against drinking the tap water. Instead, residents were assured that the water was safe.

“‘It felt like we were being gaslit,’ Freeman’s declaration filed in the case said. ‘We knew the water wasn’t safe, but the Navy was telling us that it was. They said they didn’t know what was in the water and that they were ‘investigating.’’”

In a report released in 2022, the Navy revealed that operator error led to a pipe rupture, causing 21,000 gallons of jet fuel to leak. Most of the fuel flowed into a fire suppression line, weighing it down for six months, before a cart collided with the line on November 20, 2021, and caused it to burst, releasing approximately 20,000 gallons.

Over 400,000 Honolulu residents receive their tap water from aquifers located above the Red Hill storage facility. In response to concerns raised by Hawaii residents about their water supply, the Navy acceded to their demands and completed the draining of the fuel tanks in March.

“‘A bellwether trial helps attorneys to understand the likely success or failure of the cases that are in the pipeline,’ Loretta Sheehan, a Honolulu-based personal injury attorney not involved in the case, said.”

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1 Comment

  1. CharlieSeattle

    May 7, 2024 at 12:06 am

    Day one. Ask the Navy JAG Lawyers, the Judge and Jury to drink the water 3 times a day and every day of the trial.

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