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Schatz asks the Defense Department to help people experiencing health issues from Red Hill fuel leaks

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, sent a letter to the Department of Defense Thursday, saying the agency must provide health care resources to individuals affected by chronic conditions related to drinking fuel-tainted water, including those who are not beneficiaries of the Military Health System, according to a news release.

On Nov. 20, 2021, the Navy spilled fuel at Red Hill, which entered Oahu’s groundwater and impacted 93,000 people using the Navy’s water system.

The letter was addressed to Gilbert Cisneros, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.

In the letter, Schatz also asked for more details on the chemicals that people may have been exposed to and for a long-term health study to gather medical data. 

“Protecting the health and safety of service members and their families is the sacred obligation of the Department of Defense, and the water contamination of the community water system at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam was a breach of trust. DoD must use all tools at its disposal to ensure that all people who were exposed have access to the medical assessments and treatments they need today and in the future, including service members, military family members, DoD civilian employees, DoD contractors, and civilians who are not DoD-affiliated,” Schatz wrote.

The military announced in November it would open the Red Hill Clinic, which will accept patients suffering from long-term impacts from the fuel leak starting on Jan. 3, 2023. Patients must be enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System in order to get an appointment. 

Last month, Hawaii U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, along with New York U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin demanding to know how the Department of Defense is supporting families affected by the Red Hill fuel leaks that contaminated the U.S. Navy’s water system.