A Navy sailor, an Army colonel and an Army major are the first active-duty service members to take the first step toward a lawsuit against the US government over jet fuel that contaminated drinking water in Hawaii.
Navy Ensign Koda Freeman, Army Col. Jessica Whaley and Army Maj. Amanda Feindt filed pre-litigation claim forms with the Navy on Monday night, which will later allow them to file a lawsuit federal in Honolulu, their attorneys said.
In 2021, kerosene spilled from a drain line at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, flowed into a potable water well and then into the navy water system serving 93,000 people in and around Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Nearly 6,000 consulted a doctor, complaining of ailments such as nausea, headaches and sores. The military put about 4,000 families in hotels for several months.
The Hawaii Department of Health ordered the Navy to shut down the facility after the spill, which also contaminated the ground under the tanks and threatened the health of an aquifer that provides water to 400,000 people in Honolulu.
A separate trial was filed on behalf of more than 100 civilians. Their lawyers say they expect to add thousands more to the lawsuit.
Doctrine generally prohibits service members from making claims in the line of duty. But in the claims, their attorneys said, “These injuries that occurred in his home, outside of work hours, were not ‘incidental to the service’ and the United States is responsible for them.”
Navy officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.