More families file claims against Navy as attorneys plan for class-action lawsuit

(HONOLULU) — In another step toward a possible class action lawsuit, more military and civilian families are filing lawsuits against the Navy over the contaminated water crisis.

Elisapeta Alaimaleata is an American Samoan nonprofit leader living at Halsey Terrace military shelter. She says she has hair loss, rashes and dizziness from the fuel-contaminated and smelly water.

“When we get out of the shower, we feel high. We’re dizzy,” said Alaimaleata.

She says her husband, who retired from the army, also had lesions and was bleeding onto her bed.

Her dog almost died and her taro plants shrank from watering.

“I’m really shocked to learn that we’ve been using contaminated water for a very long time,” she said.

The Navy said the contamination of its water main was short term – most likely caused by two leaks in May and November last year.

Alaimaleata is one of about 20 plaintiffs working with private attorney and former Hawaii Attorney General Margery Bronster.

“We felt it was necessary to prosecute the Navy because they are the ones responsible,” said Bronster of Bronster Fujichaku Robbins Attorneys at Law.

They held a press conference Wednesday with medical experts and a law firm in the mainland.

“The government at the highest level is turning its back on its military personnel, and that’s why we got involved in this case,” said attorney Corey Weck.

“When you drink water with fuel, it doesn’t necessarily disperse evenly. It tends to be concentrated in certain tissues, and we’re concerned that it’s concentrated in brain and nerve tissues,” added Dr. Larry McEvoy, EMS Physician and CEO of Healthcare.

During a recent congressional hearing, Navy leaders said they would comply with the state’s emergency order to defuel the Red Hill tanks, but refused to concede that the state has legal authority over the Navy.

“That’s one of the reasons we felt it necessary to stand up for the plaintiffs, because I don’t know if the Navy will listen to the state,” Bronster said.

As part of that court case, Bronster said active-duty military cannot make claims, but family members can.

Navy leaders said they didn’t know how much the claims and litigation would cost the government. So far, managing the crisis has cost $250 million.

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