More families file claims against Navy as attorneys plan for class-action lawsuit
(HONOLULU) - In another step toward a possible class-action lawsuit, more military and civilian families are filing claims against the Navy over the tainted water crisis.
Elisapeta Alaimaleata is an American Samoan nonprofit leader and lives in Halsey Terrace military housing. She says she’s had hair loss, rashes and dizziness from the fuel-tainted and smelly water.
“Being out of the shower, we feel like we are high. We feel like we are dizzy,” said Alaimaleata.
She says her husband, who retired from the Army, also had lesions and was bleeding onto their bed.
Their dog almost died and their taro plants shriveled from the watering.
“I’m really scared to know that we consumed water that is contaminated for a very long time,” she said.
The Navy has said the contamination of its water line was short-term ― most likely caused by two spills in May and November of last year.
Alaimaleata is one of about 20 claimants working with private attorney and former Hawaii Attorney General Margery Bronster.
“We felt it was necessary to go after the Navy because they are ones responsible,” said Bronster, of Bronster Fujichaku Robbins Attorneys at Law.
They held a news conference Wednesday with medical experts and a mainland law firm.
“The government at the highest levels turns its back on its service members and that’s why we got involved in this case,” said attorney Corey Weck.
“If you drink water with fuel in it, it doesn’t necessarily disperse in a uniform way. It tends to concentrate in certain tissues and we worry about it concentrating in brain and neuro tissue,” added Dr. Larry McEvoy, emergency room physician and healthcare CEO.
During a recent congressional hearing, Navy leaders said they were complying with the state’s emergency order to defuel the Red Hill tanks, but refused to concede that the state had the legal authority over the Navy.
“That’s one of the reasons why we felt it was necessary to step in for the claimants because I don’t know if the Navy is going to listen to the state,” said Bronster.
As part of this legal process, Bronster said active-duty military cannot file claims, but family members can.
Navy leaders have said they don’t know how much the claims and litigation would cost the government. So far, dealing with the crisis has cost $250 million.
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