More military families sue for fuel-contaminated drinking waters: “We’re just collateral damages”

Navy officials insisted the water on Oahu was safe to drink after two fuel leaks. Now more than 100 people are suing, claiming they have long-lasting illnesses.

One year ago, more than 100 people joined a lawsuit against U.S. government. This was after jet fuel leaked into drinking water supplies used by military families near Pearl Harbor. Many plaintiffs described the situation as serious and long-lasting.

“I feel like we have been abandoned and I struggle with many feelings. Katherine McClanahan said that we are just collateral damage. She estimates that she has had more than 50 doctor visits since drinking contaminated water at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Katherine McClanahan, her husband, and their three sons gathered together to take a family picture. McClanahan claimed she suffered from long-lasting symptoms due to drinking fuel-contaminated water in Hawaii. (Photo by Katherine McClanahan. )


According to the updated lawsuit, which was announced Thursday, hundreds of soldiers, families, and civilians were sickened by water leaks at Red Hill’s WWII-era storage facility close to Pearl Harbor. The Navy had maintained for several weeks that the water was safe. It also claims that the government destroyed water samples.

In August, the first lawsuit was filed by Just Well Law in Austin, Texas and Hosoda Law Group of Honolulu. The federal government was accused of negligence in relation to the leaks and the failure to promptly inform the public. It claims that the Federal Tort Claims Act should hold the U.S. responsible.

Kristina Baehr, founder of Just Well Law, stated that families have become more sick since then. However, the Navy has denied that their illnesses were due to exposure.

Baehr stated to Fox News that it was medical gaslighting at its highest levels. It’s forcing our clients on a wild goose chase in order to receive the medical care they require.

Baehr stated that she represents over 800 people who were affected by the spillage and said that while only 100 people are currently included in the complaint, the suit is expected to grow.



Red Hill was flooded with nearly 21,000 gallons jet fuel in May 2021. The command report of the Navy says that although the fuel’s amount to the water cannot be calculated, it is believed to have been small. According to the report, the fuel could have entered the environment by evaporation or other “imperfections” within the concrete tunnel from which it was spilled.

According to the Navy, most of the fuel settled in Red Hill’s fire suppression system.

A cart struck a valve on the fire suppression pipe, cracking the PVC, and triggering what Baehr called an “enormous explosion” of fuel. Video taken by Honolulu Civil Beat shows what appears like fuel flooding a tunnel within the facility.

Although the command report doesn’t give any details about the amount of fuel that was spilled, it does mention that 12,000 gallons fuel was recovered by the Navy “immediately” following the spillage.


The contaminated water allegedly caused some residents to become ill at a Hawaii naval base. (Fox News)

The Navy informed the public the next day that there had been a Red Hill “water and fuel combination release”, but that there was no evidence it had reached the environment. It stated that the water was safe to drink.

A resident called JBPHH Public Works Department on Nov. 27 to report a chemical odor in their water. The department received 37 complaints about a fuel-like odor in the water the next day.

Navy staff reported “observations” of fuel smell and sheen in Red Hill’s drinking water well on Dec. 2. On the same day, Navy issued a press release acknowledging that it had detected fuel in water.

McClanahan stated that her first symptoms of joint pain, shortness of breath, and joint swelling began in fall 2021, just before the second leak. They have only gotten worse since then. Mother of three, and wife to an Air Force Reserve, McClanahan calls the past year a “nightmare that will never end.”

She said that she had been told for months that the symptoms would be temporary and fleeting. She added that the Navy admitted the contamination, but would not admit to having illness.

According to the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s senior health adviser, several thousand people were treated in the first days following the oil spillage. They experienced nausea, vomiting and skin irritation that were all consistent with petroleum exposure.

Capt. Michael McGinnis stated this during a Facebook live update on March 10. “But, we are very sensitive. … We are very sensitive to that.


Katherine McClanahan is a military spouse, mother of three and has been to over 50 doctor appointments in the past year. (Photo courtesy Katherine McClanahan. )

McClanahan stated that she still experiences headaches, dizziness and muscle tremors. However, doctors have not been able to provide a definitive diagnosis. McClanahan, a former college swimmer who lived an active life on Oahu, is now suffering from severe symptoms. Fox News told her that she is most concerned about young children who have suffered from respiratory problems, skin irritation, muscle pain, and other symptoms.

She said, “It’s heartbreaking because it’s not understand the future of the children.”

A new lawsuit claims that water samples from over 1,000 homes were never tested for fuel , and were thrown away after a month of storage.

Baehr stated that “the government destroyed evidence.”

On Jan. 31, 2022 the Navy flushes the water supply and discharges up to 3500 gallons per minute from Red Hill Well into Halawa Stream. Many families claim they became ill from drinking fuel-contaminated water. (U.S. Navy photo taken by Christopher Thomas, Mass Communication Specialist Seaman)

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McClanahan was unpacking her belongings as she spoke to Fox News. McClanahan and her son, the youngest, are returning to the mainland to move to a specialist care clinic.

She hopes that the lawsuit will bring her answers and accountability.

McClanahan stated, “We want to know the truth. Doctors right now tell us they’re throwing darts trying help because they’re guessing at what was in the water.” McClanahan said, “And I hope it never happens again to another family.”

The Navy did not comment on the August lawsuit or respond to a request for comment.

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