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Thousands of military families and civilians continue to suffer health problems from 2021 fuel leak in Hawaii

Over 2,500 plaintiffs are now seeking more than $1 million each in damages after being exposed to toxic jet fuel following a 2021 leak at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

In November 2021, 93,000 people living near the U.S. military’s strategic fuel storage facility near Honolulu, Hawaii woke up to find their drinking water contaminated with toxic jet fuel. 27,000 gallons had leaked into the aquifer near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Now more than 2,500 plaintiffs who have dealt with the side effects of ingesting jet fuel joined a lawsuit asking the government for up to $1.25 million each in damages.

The fuel storage facility known as Red Hill was the largest in the Pacific and was built during World War II. The fuel was stored in miles of tunnels up to 20 stories underground to provide as much as 250 million gallons of strategic fuel reserves for the Navy’s Pacific Fleet.

Trial Lawyer Kristina Baehr of Just Well Law is representing the military families and civilians suing the U.S. government for the water contamination at Red Hill.


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“The government calls it contamination, and our clients call it poisoning because that’s what happened. The government knew it was contaminated and let them use it,” Baehr said in an interview with Fox News.

Baehr says her clients have a wide range of long term symptoms including Parkinson’s and seizures.

This case is personal for Baehr. After her own family experienced toxic exposure, she decided to leave her job at the Department of Justice to represent families like her own.

“They are coming forward not for themselves, but for everybody else to make sure it doesn’t happen again. We can’t be mission ready as a country if we’re sick or if our people are sick,” Baehr said of the thousands she is representing in the lawsuit.

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The case is named for Jaclyn Hughes and her family. Hughes had just given birth to her son, Maverick, at the time of the leak. Just days after he was born, he was covered in red rashes, and Hughes’s own throat immediately began to burn after drinking the water in their home.

Hughes’s husband deployed with the U.S. Navy at the time of the leak. He missed the birth of their son and when he got home to meet Maverick, the water had an oily sheen and smelled of gasoline, Hughes explained.

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“My husband was forward deployed at the time. He missed the birth of his son. He came home when he was five days old to meet him. To come home to jet fuel in our drinking water and have to deploy again, leaving us in the hands of the Navy he was sworn to protect, to have us refused care, denied, gaslit, and to this day not have all the appropriate care that we need for our daughter,” Hughes told Fox.

Their daughter Kyla, who was just four years old at the time of the leak, went into a full psychosis, Hughes said.

“When Kyla started experiencing her symptoms, she went from a happy-go-lucky four-year-old little girl that went into full psychosis. We went through her being a normal functioning in school to not being able to leave our house for months at a time because of her level of disability,” Hughes said.

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Aurora Briggs, another plaintiff, was 22-years-old at the time of the leak. She was living in civilian housing on land owned by the U.S. Navy with her younger siblings and her mom. Briggs has dealt with dozens of symptoms ranging from a sore throat to memory loss and brain fog. Living in Arizona now, she has had trouble getting care.

It is not every day a doctor is told the patients’ symptoms stem from long-term exposure to jet fuel, Briggs explained.

“The list is so long that we have a binder just to keep track of all the different conditions, symptoms, doctor’s appointments, and everything. It’s extensive,” Briggs said.

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Of her symptoms, Briggs said, “I feel like I have dementia because I just get to the point where I can’t remember things, and I struggle with, you know, even thinking of words. Sometimes just talking is a struggle.”

Both Hughes and Briggs find the U.S. Navy at fault for how the leak was dealt with.

“The institution of the Navy grossly mishandled this. Specifically, those who were in charge of communicating to us in testing, in maintenance and in handling all of the Red Hill contamination. We are a proud Navy family. My husband serves, he is underway as we speak. Our family has served. We feel betrayed by the institution that was supposed to be protecting us,” Hughes said.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the Red Hill facility closed in March 2022. 12.4 million gallons of diesel and 93 million gallons of jet fuel had to be moved to multiple locations in the Indo-Pacific area of command.

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But, Baehr said the Navy still hasn’t cleaned up the jet fuel still sticking to the pipes. Families are still reporting a sheen in the water and an oily smell.

“What we know either way is that there’s a sheen in the water. People are reporting symptoms. The EPA is concerned and the Navy is continuing to turn a blind eye. So no, that water is not safe. We’ve got a situation where people are still sick who were there in November of 2021. And the water is still not safe.”

The U.S. Navy pushed back on this claim in a statement to Fox News.

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“After the initial spill in November 2021 the Navy took immediate action to recover (flush) the system and implemented a robust sampling program.  The Navy also disconnected the affected well and ensured all drinking water was provided from a different shaft,” the statement read.

The Navy told Fox it has taken 9,000 samples to EPA-approved labs and found the water now meets state and federal safety standards. The Navy noted the Hawaii Department of Health confirmed through its own independent investigation that no petroleum or jet fuel compounds were detected in drinking water samples collected at or near the Navy base.

But there is a long road ahead to deal with the fallout from the leak.

“We as the families impacted in the thousands need to hear them say, yes, you were injured by this. There are kids that are sick. There are kids that need long term care. There needs to be accountability,” Hughes said.

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