Military Families Sue The Government Over Contaminated Water

( – There’s an expectation that the US government will take care of military families who sacrifice so much for the good of the nation. Their well-being is also critical to troop readiness. If American service members can’t rely on Uncle Sam to take care of their loved ones, it makes it harder for them to do their jobs when deployed.

Unfortunately, the government has repeatedly failed to ensure military families are protected and healthy. Now, a trial is underway in a lawsuit against the feds over contaminated water, not just for the families of service members but for a city too.

What Happened?

In 2021, Hawaii ordered the US Navy to stop its operations at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility at Pearl Harbor. The order came after the state found high levels of petroleum in Honolulu’s drinking water.

The fuel tank sits above an aquifer on the base that supplies drinking water to about 25% of Honolulu’s population. It’s also about a mile from the Honolulu Board of Water Supply’s Halawa Shaft. In 2021, there were two major fuel leaks and the government received a $325,000 fine.

In November 2021, the Hawaii Department of Health issued a statement after receiving multiple complaints about people smelling gas coming from the Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) water system. That included the water at Nimitz and Red Hill Elementary Schools, military housing, and the Aliamanu Military Reservation.

The Navy dismissed the warning and later apologized for telling people the water was safe to drink. Samples from the Red Hill Shaft showed petroleum levels that were about 350 times the level considered safe. The military relocated about 3,000 military families to temporary housing.

Families Sue

The leak led to three federal lawsuits against the United States. The Associated Press reported a trial began on Monday, April 29, that included 17 “bellwether” plaintiffs, a cross-section of military families representing more than 7,500 others. The lawsuit is being described as a “bellwether” trial because it will help attorneys figure out whether more cases will be successful.

According to the report, court documents say the US government admitted to the fuel spill. The lawsuit accused the government of breaching “its duty to care” and alleges people suffered compensable injuries. Nastasia Freeman, a mother of three and the wife of a Navy officer, described her family suffering from diarrhea and vomiting after Thanksgiving in 2021. She said she “developed a rash […] with sores and lesions on [her] scalp, feet, and hands,” while also suffering from a headache and feeling like her “blood was on fire.”

The plaintiffs submitted filings that documented how the contaminated water left them with long-term health problems, including eczema, seizures, asthma, and other issues. Their lawyers have accused the military of lying to residents by telling them the water was safe to drink and initially failing to warn them that there was a link at all.

The trial will also help determine possible future damages for other suits.

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