SMITHFIELD, Va. (WAVY) – It’s been a nightmare of a year for Hampton native, Army Major Amanda (Mandy) Feindt.
“Our family, our entire family ended up in the ER between the 11th and the 13th of December,” Feindt said during a recent Zoom call.
She’s recently been reassigned after she, her husband, and their two toddlers drank contaminated water and are dealing with the health impacts.
“Almost immediately, we started feeling symptoms, so we had, like, eye infections, migraines, our son had a terrible rash from his waist down and he was only one year old at the time,” said Feindt.
It happened at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Hawaii, which is near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. According to a Navy report, someone made a mistake in May 2021, which led to jet fuel getting trapped in a fire suppression line. Then in November 2021, someone made another mistake and that fuel got into the water supply.
In all, roughly 20,000 gallons of jet fuel got into the drinking water of nearly 93,000 military families.
“We were exposed in our home, where we lived,” said Feindt. “Our children were exposed five days a week, 10 hours a day in their daycare facility. And me at work, every single military installation on the Navy’s water line was impacted by the water crisis.”
Feindt’s parents, who live in Smithfield, were visiting Hawaii while the leak was happening.
“I had never been that sick,” said Patricia Maben, Feindt’s mother. “I mean, we all get the flu and bugs and stomach viruses, but mine lasted so long and I lost so much weight, I was afraid I was going to end up in the hospital because of it.”
Patricia and Joey Maben were able to leave and come home, but it’s been tough.
“It’s been devastating, you know. When you watch your own child go through it and then have to go through it with your grandchildren,” said Joey Maben.
“They’ve had a lot of health issues and it seems like every time we talk to them, one of them or the other one is sick, said Patricia. “They are getting a lot of testing done, and there’s so much unknown out there right now about all of this.”
A Navy report says the leak was the result of “human error” and a “culture of complacency.” The Navy plans to defuel Red Hill and close the storage facility. It’s accepted responsibility for what happened and created online resources and databases with information and instructions for people impacted by this.
However, Feindt says it’s not enough.
“Real people, real harm, American assets on American soil have been poisoned,” she said. “If we’re going to treat folks like collateral damage, which is what we’ve been doing as if we were in a combat zone, then we need to compensate them for that.”
She’s heading to Washington DC soon to speak with lawmakers and advocate for change. That includes proactive medical care and compensation for that care.
“I possess now toxicology labs and air quality tests and I know exactly now, paying on my own dime, what’s exactly in my children’s body right now and it is very scary as a parent,” Feindt said “This is just to prepare us for the long-term health impacts that we know are very possible for many of our families.”
Feindt wants her hometown to know about her fight and hopes they’ll support her as she soldiers on.
“This is about paving the way, especially for our junior soldiers to be able to have a voice, to be able to advocate for their families, to be able to be compensated for the harm.”
Navy officials say a number of people remain under investigation for what happened.
Feindt’s husband is part of a recently-filed lawsuit against the government. She is not on it because she is active-duty.
10 On Your Side reached out to Navy Public Affairs in Hawaii about the lawsuit, but did not hear back.
You can read the lawsuit HERE.
You can read the Navy’s report HERE.
You can read the defueling plan HERE.
Check WAVY.com for the latest updates.