Lawsuit over Navy’s contaminated water grows as more families come forward with health problems

The lawsuit started with 4 plaintiffs, but now more than 100 have joined in.
Published: Nov. 11, 2022 at 7:21 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 12, 2022 at 2:30 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - More families are speaking out how they’ve fallen through the cracks after the Navy’s Red Hill fuel leaks sickened thousands of people last year.

The lawsuit started with four plaintiffs, but now more than 100 have joined in.

Pearl Harbor resident Kat McClanahan, who’s married to an Air Force Reservist, was active and healthy until last year’s fuel leaks from the Navy’s Red Hill Fuel tanks. It contaminated the Pearl Harbor drinking water system sickening thousands of people nearly a year ago.

She’s part of the amended lawsuit.

A military family invited us in to see (and smell) their water firsthand. Here’s what we saw.

Currently, McClanahan is seeing multiple doctors for losing her balance, muscle twitching and other health problems she never had before. She said doctors are worried she appears to have an early nerve disease, but can’t pinpoint it.

“There was no military doctors offering advice, information, data, or direction for families,” said McClanahan.

“I had just continued to meet family after family who didn’t even know each other, children who had similar symptoms and identical timelines to me,” she added.

The expanded lawsuit against the U.S. government cites a Hawaii News Now report Wednesday on an alarming new CDC survey that shows worse health among those impacted by the Red Hill fuel spills.

Alarming new CDC survey shows ‘worse health’ among those impacted by Red Hill fuel spills

“The symptoms weren’t going away. My body just seemed to be breaking down,” said McClanahan.

On Wednesday, leaders and community members involved with the Red Hill tainted water crisis met at a Department of Health Fuel Tank Advisory Committee.

Dr. Jennifer Espirtu, Tripler Medical Center’s Public Health Chief said she senses the frustration after complaints of illnesses and lack of health care from military and civilian families.

“The trauma from this unprecedented event understandably continues to be a top concern of our community. Ongoing health symptoms should be investigated and understood,” said Espiritu.

For continuing coverage on the Red Hill facility, click here.

As the military works on a defueling and closure plan of the Red Hill fuel tanks, military leaders say the underground tanks could be reused but not for fuel. Some Hawaii leaders worry the Department of Defense could do an about-face.

“Two years from now there’s going to be a change in leadership. I don’t want an opportunity for the military to bring back fuel to Red Hill ever again,” said Ernie Lau, Board of Water Supply manager and chief engineer.

“I would fight them if they want to put any more fuel in those tanks,” said Kathleen Ho, Deputy Director for Environmental Health Administration.

The Navy said it doesn’t comment on current litigation.