Military members in Hawaii file claim against U.S. over jet fuel in drinking water

Protesters holding up signs outside a gate.
Protesters hold signs outside the gate at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, in September 2022. The year before, jet fuel spilled from a drain line into a well.
(Audrey McAvoy / Associated Press)

A Navy sailor, an Army colonel and an Army major are the first active-duty military members taking the initial step toward suing the U.S. government over jet fuel that contaminated drinking water in Hawaii.

Navy Ensign Koda Freeman, Army Col. Jessica Whaley and Army Maj. Amanda Feindt filed pre-litigation claim forms with the Navy late Monday, which will allow them to later file a federal lawsuit in Honolulu, their attorneys said.

In 2021, jet fuel spilled from a drain line at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, flowed into a drinking-water well and then into the Navy’s water system serving 93,000 people in and around Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Nearly 6,000 sought medical attention, complaining of ailments such as nausea, headaches and sores. The military put about 4,000 families in hotels for several months.


The Hawaii Department of Health ordered the Navy to close the facility after the spill, which also contaminated the ground beneath the tanks and threatened the health of an aquifer that provides water to 400,000 people in Honolulu.

A separate lawsuit was filed on behalf of more than 100 civilians. Their attorneys say they expect to add thousands of others to the lawsuit.

A doctrine typically bars service members from making claims while in the line of duty. But in the claims, their attorneys said their injuries at home, “during non-duty hours, were not ‘incident to service,’ and the United States is liable for them.”

The Navy declined to comment on the filing.