DOD offers medical evaluations to civilians impacted by Red Hill fuel leak
Stars and Stripes April 11, 2023
FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii — The Defense Department is offering medical assessments to civilians who were exposed to jet fuel contamination from a leak at the Red Hill storage facility in Hawaii in 2021.
The assessments began Monday at the Red Hill Clinic on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, the Defense Health Agency Region Indo-Pacific said in a news release.
Subsequent treatment, “if deemed medically necessary,” will be provided either at the Red Hill Clinic or Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu.
The assessments and care will be offered through March 10, 2024,
Kristina Baehr, an attorney with Just Well Law, one of two law firms representing more than 100 current or former residents of the affected communities, called the Monday announcement “a PR stunt.”
“The [Defense Health Agency] and military providers have failed to provide even the most basic standard of care to Red Hill victims since the beginning of this crisis,” Baehr said in a phone interview Monday.
“Why would we want those same providers to provide substandard care for civilians, too?” she said.
Thousands of residents were temporarily relocated to Waikiki Beach hotels beginning in late 2021 after the Navy’s water distribution system for military communities on and near the joint base became tainted with jet fuel.
In March 2022, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the Red Hill facility, the source of the jet fuel, permanently closed.
The current or former residents sued the Navy in federal court seeking compensation for conditions and illnesses they say stem from exposure to contaminated water.
Late last month, two soldiers and a sailor became the first service members to pursue legal action over the contamination.
The news release did not include an estimate of the number of civilians now potentially for assessments at the Red Hill Clinic or Tripler.
The Red Hill Clinic was established in late December 2022 and has been available to any individual within the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System. DEERS-enrolled individuals include service members, military retirees, 100% disabled veterans, dependents and active contractors.
Court documents filed in the federal suit claim that the Navy has been reluctant and inconsistent in delivering medical care for residents who have sought tests, lab work and treatment.
The new offer for health assessments is available to any civilian who lived in housing served by the Navy’s water distribution system or who worked full or part time in any Navy facility using that water between Nov. 20, 2021, and March 18, 2022. Defense Department employees are not enrolled in DEERS.
The assessments are intended for those who are experiencing “persistent symptoms” that they attribute to jet fuel contamination, the news release said.
Appointments are available 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. To make an appointment call 800-874-2273, select option 1 and then choose Red Hill Clinic.
“Upon completion of the initial health assessment, individuals will receive a letter determining further eligibility for care,” the release said.