Military families sue property managers over chemical exposure

Military families sue property managers over chemical exposure
Published: Jun. 20, 2014 at 6:12 PM HST
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Marine Corps Base Hawaii
Marine Corps Base Hawaii

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, KANEOHE (HawaiiNewsNow) - A group of military moms have filed a lawsuit saying their families were exposed to dangerous chemicals and they weren't properly notified of the risk.

The families involved say their children got sick and their pets died all from exposure to chemicals in the soil, but the Marine Corps Base Hawaii has a very different response.

The photos show dug up dirt at construction sites right next to homes on base. The claim is the Military used a chemical called chlordane to treat termites. That chemical was banned in 1988.

When the base started new construction, the chemicals were kicked up and the dust flew into homes and bedrooms.

"It was a nightmare. It got to the point where she had to have asthma specialists at Tripler and she was on steroids. It became life threatening," said Cara Barber, one of the plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit.

Cara Barber says her kids developed asthma and other respiratory ailments requiring emergency room visits. She is convinced it was from the chemical exposure because her kids never had those problems before arriving on base, and after moving away, they got better. Also their doctors told them so.

"Our MCBH pediatrician told us that was the cause and our asthma specialist told us that was the cause as well," said Barber.

She and three others are part of a class action lawsuit suing Ohana Military Communities and Forest City Residential Management for not properly notifying residents about the risks.

"If you're going to put your neighbor at risk from something like a chemical or something else then you should tell them that. That's just part of being a good neighbor," said Kyle Smith, attorney for the plaintiffs.

However, the Navy and Marine Corps say they are in compliance with and released the following written statement.

"The Navy and Marine Corps are in compliance with or have exceeded all existing environmental regulations and industry practices pertaining to the legally applied use of chlordane.

With respect to the 212 housing project, The Navy held many discussions with the State Department of Health on this issue. We steadily responded to their concerns and questions, and provided them the opportunity to visit the site on May 25, 2006. The State Department of Health told us the Navy has been responsive to their concerns and requests for information.

The safety and well-being of our military members and their families is always the Navy's first concern. We would never knowingly expose them to any unsafe health risks, and  quickly took action after the discovery of chlordane on the site was made known."

The defendants have filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. It is scheduled to go before a judge next week.

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