Hawaii Community Contaminated by Jet Fuel Goes to Washington DC

U.S. Advocates Impacted by Water Contamination Meet in DC

Advocates across the nation are connecting and learning that government agencies meant to protect the environment and public health have failed to safeguard natural resources and track disease clusters plaguing their neighborhoods and hundreds of other communities. These families are coming together to hold agencies accountable for doing their job. 

According to consumer reports, more than 25 million Americans drink from the worst water systems in the nation. Many Americans are unaware of dangerous contaminants that are unregulated and allowed in public water systems across the United States. People will continue to see widespread contamination situations with deteriorating infrastructure and a lack of environmental regulations.

From contaminated water to soil and air, these communities were forced to do the job of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and their state health departments as they fell sick and began to uncover the negligence of polluting industries surrounding their homes. When corporations self-report their data and pollution "spills" and have input over the EPA and other agency decision-making processes, it's the fox guarding the hen house.

There is a misconception that contamination happens only in rare circumstances in the United States. When you mention water contamination, people think of the infamous Erin Brockovich case in Hinkley, California, and don't fathom that it's likely happening in their backyard.

Hundreds of advocates and their families met in Freedom Plaza to recount their heart-wrenching stories of how industry pollution has impacted their communities. They traveled to Washington, DC, to tell agencies that it was time to protect people, not industries.


From contaminated water to soil and air, these communities were forced to do the job of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and their state health departments as they fell sick and began to uncover the negligence of polluting industries surrounding their homes. When corporations self-report their data and pollution "spills" and have input over the EPA and other agency decision-making processes, it's the fox guarding the hen house.

There is a misconception that contamination happens only in rare circumstances in the United States. When you mention water contamination, people think of the infamous Erin Brockovich case in Hinkley, California, and don't fathom that it's likely happening in their backyard.
 
Some water systems report hundreds of violations year after year without any action from the government or notifying customers. There are consequences of even the tiniest levels of contaminants in water. Government agencies have relied on unenforceable health levels, and federal standards have consistently failed to develop national standards that protect all Americans. The lack of standards is why nationwide advocates have been forced to defend their communities.


Hawaii Red Hill Water Contamination

One of those communities is in Hawaii, where the U.S. Navy's fuel storage facility poisoned nearly 100,000 residents, sending thousands to seek medical help after suffering from petroleum exposure.

For months, pregnant women, children, service members, and pets experienced dizziness, breathing difficulties, vomiting, headaches, and rashes. The Navy denied the dangers despite sickening thousands, including their family and friends. A month after the fuel contaminated the drinking water, the Navy agreed to stop the leaking tanks. Since 1943, it is estimated that 200,000 gallons of fuel have leaked from the Red Hill facility.

A study revealed that the tanks could have chronic leaks releasing up to 5,800 gallons of fuel annually. Despite these warning signs, the facility chose to continue operating the facility making minimal improvements, leading to the catastrophic leak in 2021.


Americans Poisoned on U.S. Soil

Mandy Feindt is a U.S. Army major who has dealt with the health effects of leaked jet fuel. Feindt has served on active duty for the past 16 years, with overseas tours, including to Afghanistan. In November of 2021, Feindt was impacted by Department of Defense contamination after jet fuel leaked into the drinking water in Oahu, Hawaii. Her one-year-old son experienced chemical burns on the lower half of his body from bathing. Her four-year-old daughter was diagnosed with neurological conditions after unknowingly drinking and bathing in the contaminated water. Feindt is one of the thousands of military members and their dependents impacted by Department of Defense contamination across the nation.

The Hawaii jet fuel contamination is one example of how self-regulation doesn't work. The Navy was aware it got into the groundwater and failed to notify the public after losing nearly 14,000 gallons of jet fuel. In fact, the Navy issued a notification stating; 

"There are no signs or indication of any releases to the environment, and the drinking water remains safe." 

Many people who live in the area reported diarrhea, vomiting, difficulty breathing, headaches, rashes, and more. One month later, sampling showed petroleum levels were 350 times above the safe drinking water limit. 


O'ahu Water Protectors

The O'ahu Water Protectors have sparked a campaign called #ShutDownRedHill and are fighting the US Navy for polluting their island. The campaign calls for decommissioning the tanks that leaked hundreds of thousands of gallons of jet fuel into the water supply and then permanently shutting down the entire facility. Red Hill is the latest example of how the United States military disregards land, water, and everyone who lives in these communities. The water protectors say that people are becoming more critical of the military and how they put lives at risk on their own soil. Every day the fuel tanks stay, they risk another catastrophic leak, poisoning more people and having long-term impacts on the island. Water is imperative for survival, and this is one of the greatest threats to life as they know it. The water protector's priority is keeping their aquifer safe. 


Department of Defense Contamination

Our military uses almost 21 billion liters of fuel every year, and Hawaii isn't the first or only incident of fuel leaks. In 2014, a defense contractor spilled jet fuel at Fort Hood and then lied about it to investigators. 94,000 gallons of jet fuel spilled in Virginia Beach at the Naval Air Station Oceana Bulk Fuel Farm in 2017. Kirtland Air Force Base had the largest toxic spill in the history of the U.S. as jet fuel leaked into soil and groundwater for decades, an estimated 24 million gallons.

The Department of Defense is one of the country's largest polluters. The lack of accountability, reporting, and data, makes it challenging to track their environmental impact. They create 750,000 tons of toxic waste every year in depleted uranium, oil, jet fuels, pesticides, leads, and other chemicals, according to MPN reports



Stel Bailey, Susan Wind, Mandy Feindt

Stel Bailey, Meredith Wilson, Ariana Wyatt

Stel Bailey, Mandy Feindt, Erik E. Crowne, Elizabeth Baker

Advocates from across the nation meet in Washington DC.

Full Links & Additional Reading:
  • Hawaii's seven wastewater plants discharge into the ocean: http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/coasts/publications/shores/7Water_pollution_FLETCHER-final.pdf
  • Increased Risk for Leukemia and Childhood Toxin Exposure: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969702001699
  • Jet Fuel Spill at Fort Hood: https://thetexan.news/colorado-based-defense-contractor-agrees-to-pay-1-9-million-for-2014-jet-fuel-spill-at-fort-hood/
  • Kirtland fuel spill: https://ejatlas.org/conflict/kirtland-air-force-base-jet-fuel-leak
  • MNP Report: https://www.mintpressnews.com/on-earth-day-remembering-the-us-militarys-toxic-legacy/227776/
    https://www.epa.gov/trinationalanalysis
  • Naval Oceana Jet Fuel Spill: https://www.militarynews.com/norfolk-navy-flagship/news/top_stories/naval-air-station-oceana-fuel-spill/article_c0103dd4-6aed-57f6-8db5-e878ab6cd949.html
  • O'ahu Water Protectors: https://oahuwaterprotectors.org/
  • SAFE: https://www.safeprotestepa.org/
  • Worst Cases of Water Contamination: https://law.yale.edu/studying-law-yale/clinical-and-experiential-learning/our-clinics/veterans-legal-services-clinic/camp-lejeune

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