Military housing residents who were displaced from their homes by fuel contamination in the Navy’s water system filed a class-action lawsuit on Friday against their property managers.

The lawsuit filed in Circuit Court states that the companies that operate the housing communities had a responsibility to deliver potable water but that the water supply has not been “sufficiently protected from the risk of fuel contamination.”

Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam Housing located around the Halsey Terrace and Aliamanu Side of the military base.
Thousands of residents moved into hotels amid the Navy’s water contamination crisis. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019

“There are thousands of people – both military and civilian – who have been displaced who didn’t get what they paid for,” Terry Revere, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, said. “They’re supposed to be provided with safe drinking water and a habitable place to live, and they’re not getting either one.”

The case was filed by Michael Casey, Payton Lamb and Jamie Williams against Ohana Military Communities, Hunt MH Property Management, Island Palm Communities and Hickam Communities, the complaint states.

The plaintiffs argue that they have overpaid for rent considering the defendants’ failure to provide “a safe and healthy home” and that they can no longer enjoy their homes or communities.

They allege that the housing companies failed to warn tenants about the location of the Red Hill fuel facility 100 feet above their drinking water source and that the drinking water was at risk. Families were also “wrongfully evicted” from their homes after the contamination came to light, according to the lawsuit.

They are seeking unspecified damages and attorneys’ fees.

Civil Beat did not receive a response from the defendant companies.

Families began reporting a fuel smell in their water and various physical ailments around Thanksgiving. Since then, the U.S. Navy has acknowledged that leaks at its World War II-era Red Hill fuel facility contaminated the Red Hill shaft, a drinking water well located a half-mile from the fuel farm, with jet fuel.

Over 3,000 families have moved into hotels amid the crisis.

Meanwhile, the Hawaii Department of Health ordered the Navy to drain the tanks until it demonstrates it can operate them safely, but the Navy is fighting that order. The Navy continues to work on remediating the contamination and investigating how it occurred.

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