The Navy will open a medical clinic in Pearl Harbor for people with health issues believed to be linked to last year’s fuel leaks at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Hawaii that contaminated a fuel source. water in Oahu, sickening thousands of people.
“We are establishing the Red Hill Clinic, which is a safe place where our dedicated care teams will work with our patients to document what is happening to them and together determine the best course of action for them and their family’s health care.” , Jennifer Espiritu, acting head of public health emergencies for the Defense Health Agency, told reporters on Monday.
The clinic will go to an as-yet-unannounced military treatment center on the island and will be staffed with navy, army and air force health personnel, Espiritu said. It was planned after residents reported skin, neurological, gastrointestinal and respiratory problems following the leak.
The health concerns are believed to be due to fuel spills in May and November 2021 in Red Hill that released some 20,000 gallons of fuel, contaminating a nearby well used by 93,000 people, including Hawaiian military families, making nearly of 6,000 patients.
The leak prompted the Pentagon to order the facility shut down in March with the goal of completely emptying it and shutting it down by June 2024.
Since then, more than 100 people affected by the water contamination have joined a lawsuit against the Navy. In the lawsuit, originally filed in August in the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii, the plaintiffs claim to have suffered physically, emotionally and financially as a result of the fuel leak. Those involved in the lawsuit believe that drinking fuel-contaminated water has long-term health effects.
In the days and weeks following the leak, base residents reported nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches and skin problems, with some being forced from their homes and stay in hotels.
The US military, however, has not confirmed a link between the fuel leak and possible illnesses.
“People absolutely have health issues, which I believe, and people deserve to be seen, which I believe with all my heart,” Espiritu said. “Whether the two are connected, I can’t – we can’t make that leap now. But what we want is for people to come in so we can see them, find out what’s happening to them, and solve them thoroughly so that if there’s a connection, we can pursue it.
Espiritu admitted that the military did not monitor those who claimed to have health problems after the Red Hill leak, but said the health effects the agency would look for usually take decades to appear, such as the cancer or certain neurological conditions.
There’s also little research on how fuel exposure affects long-term health, Espiritu said.
“There are a limited number of studies on long-term exposure and certainly not on long-term exposure in vulnerable populations such as pregnant women, people with chronic conditions and children,” he said. she stated. “So what was said in March that we weren’t expecting long-term effects is true.”
Rear Admiral Stephen Barnett, commander of Naval Region Hawaii, acknowledged that the past year “has been extremely difficult for our military families and the people of Hawaii,” due to the leaks.
“I recognize their anger, their frustration, their disappointment and their distrust. I hear them loud and clear,” Barnett said Monday alongside Espiritu.
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