Contaminated water flowing into an ocean/river from a pipe

Camp Lejeune Water Contamination

Beasley Allen is currently investigating claims from people with cancer or other health conditions who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina from 1953 to 1987 and were exposed to contaminated water at the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp. A new Congressional Act allows people who suffered injuries from this exposure to bring a claim within two years.

Overview of Compensation for Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune

Watch: Beasley Allen Lawyer Rhon Jones discusses Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune

Near the sprawling Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune along the North Carolina coastline, toxic agents seeped into the soil at fuel depots, base junkyards, and even a dry cleaner. The chemicals poisoned groundwater with hazardous volatile organic compounds (VOCs) for over 34 years, beginning in 1953. Millions of Marines and their family members drank, cooked, and bathed in the water. Exposure to these dangerous chemicals is linked to serious health hazards, including:

  • Multiple cancers
  • Neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease and ALS
  • Miscarriages
  • Female infertility
  • Birth defects

President Biden signed The Camp Lejeune Justice Act on Aug. 10, 2022. The Act is part of the broader Honoring our PACT Act legislation. It allows victims to file civil Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuits in federal court within two years of that date to receive compensation for their injuries outside of Veteran’s Administration (VA) benefits.

When was Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Discovered?

The Camp Lejeune military training facility, currently part of the combined installation with Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River, was established in 1942 in Jacksonville, North Carolina. It’s become one of the Corp’s busiest and largest bases. In 1982, two water supply systems at the base were found to contain the industrial solvents trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE). In some areas, the chemicals were at levels 400 times greater than what safety standards allow, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Subsequent testing revealed the water systems were also contaminated with benzene, a known carcinogen, and vinyl chloride (VC), a toxic substance that can form when TCE and PCE are broken down.

Multiple sources likely contributed to the leaching of dangerous chemicals into the groundwater, including spills at industrial sites on base, leaks from storage tanks and drums at dumps and storage lots, and improper dumping from an off-base dry cleaner.

The Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point water treatment plants supplied water to the two affected systems. The plants began operating in 1952 and 1943, respectively. These plants serviced:

  • Enlisted-family housing
  • Barracks for unmarried service personnel
  • Base administrative offices
  • Schools
  • Recreational areas

The Hadnot Point water system also served:

  • The base hospital
  • An industrial area
  • Full-time housing on the Holcomb Boulevard water system

While it is unknown when the contamination began, the U.S. government acknowledges that from 1953 to 1987, more than a million Marines and their family members who lived on Camp Lejeune, and civilians who worked on base, were exposed to these hazardous chemicals in the water supply. Exposure to TCE, PCE, VC, and benzene is linked to numerous serious and life-threatening health hazards.

Wells in both the contaminated systems were closed from November 1984 to May 1985. The entire Tarawa Terrace water-treatment plant was shuttered in 1987. In 1989, the camp was listed as an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund site. The agency oversees the cleanup of some of the nation’s most contaminated land.

What was in the Drinking Water at Camp Lejeune?

Testing from two water wells on the base, which ended in 1985, revealed the drinking water contained toxic chemicals, including:

  • Trichloroethylene (TCE) – A liquid organic chemical used primarily to make refrigerants and other hydrofluorocarbons, degreasing solvent for metal equipment, and dry cleaning. It is also used in some household products such as cleaning supplies, paint removers, and carpet cleaners.
  • Perchloroethylene (PCE) – An organic chemical widely used in dry cleaning activities. It’s also used as a degreaser and in some consumer products such as shoe polish and typewriter correction fluid.
  • Benzene – A natural part of crude oil and gasoline. Benzene is one of the most widely used chemicals in the U.S. It’s used to make plastics, resins, synthetic fibers, rubber lubricants, dyes, detergents, and pesticides.
  • Vinyl chloride (VC) – A manufactured substance that can be formed when TCE and PCE are broken down. VC is used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is used in manufacturing various plastic products.

In 2014, the ATSDR issued a position statement on the water at Camp Lejeune, finding:

“past exposures from the 1950s through February 1985 to trichloroethylene (TCE, tetrachloroethylene (PCE), vinyl chloride, and other contaminants in the drinking water at the Camp Lejeune likely increased the risk of cancers (kidney, multiple myeloma, leukemias, and others), adverse birth outcomes, and other adverse health effects of residents (including infants and children), civilian workers, Marines, and Naval personnel at Camp Lejeune.”

What Illnesses and Symptoms are Related?

Exposure to TCE, PCE, VC, or benzene is linked to several health conditions, including:

  • Bladder Cancer
  • Breast Cancer
  • Cervical Cancer
  • Esophageal Cancer
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Liver Cancer
  • Lung Cancer
  • Ovarian Cancer
  • Stomach Cancer
  • Multiple myeloma and other myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Adult leukemia
  • Aplastic anemia and other bone marrow conditions
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Renal toxicity
  • Birth defects and birth injury
  • Miscarriage
  • Neurobehavioral effects
  • Death

What did the U.S. Government Know about Camp Lejeune Water Contamination?

In the 1970s, the EPA called Camp Lejeune a “major polluter” due to the military’s practice of dumping oil and industrial wastewater in storm drains and burying potentially radioactive materials. The dangers of organic solvents to human health were well known by then. A regulation on the books at Camp Lejeune dating back to 1974 shows the military knew just how dangerous these chemicals were and that improper dumping could contaminate drinking water.

By 1980, tighter environmental regulations led to testing the numerous wells at Camp Lejeune. In October 1980, trace levels of organic compounds were found in treated well water, but for unexplained reasons, the Marines didn’t get the results until 1982. Even after getting those results, the government did nothing to protect Marines or their families from the chemical exposure.

In an October 1980 report, William Neal Jr., chief of laboratory services for the Army lab, conducted testing and warned, “water highly contaminated.” He continued to sound the alarm over the next five months but to no avail.

In 1982, Grainger Laboratories in Raleigh, North Carolina, was hired to test the water at Camp Lejeune. Two of the base’s largest living areas, where thousands of Marines and their families lived, were contaminated with “synthetic organic cleaning solvents.” The base chemist called for an investigation, but none was done.

In July 1984, records show that gasoline was found at dangerously high levels in one well. Yet, it remained in operation until November, when news of contaminated water at Camp Lejeune was made public. The wells were subsequently shuttered.

Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit

When we sent our service members into harm’s way, we promised to care for them and their loved ones—and pay for that care—upon their return. Yet, Congress has been slow to honor this pact. But the Camp Lejeune Justice Act under the Honoring Our PACT Act, now effective, changes that.

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act allows anyone who lived or worked at the base from August 1, 1953, to December 31, 1987, for at least 30 days, exposed to the contaminated water and suffered injuries, to file a claim against the U.S. government. Without this bill, military families and civilians suffering from the terrible health consequences of Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water supply would not be compensated for their injuries due to an obscure North Carolina law that placed a strict 10-year statute of repose legally prohibiting impacted individuals from filing claims.

Watch: Beasley Allen Lawyer & Marine Rebecca Gilliland discusses the Camp Lejeune Justice Act

Claims made under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act will be handled like a personal injury mass tort and consolidated in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of North Carolina. However, the time for filing is limited. All injury claims that occurred before the passage of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act have two years from Aug. 10, 2022, when the law was enacted to file their claim.

What can I be Compensated for if Camp Lejeune Contaminated Water Injured Me?

The following damages can be recovered for those exposed and injured by contaminated water at Camp Lejeune:

  • Medical bills
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost wages
  • Disability benefits
  • Loss of companionship, consortium, enjoyment of life, and earning capacity
  • Permanent disability
  • Other compensatory damages

Any award received under this litigation will not impede or limit an individual’s continued or future entitlement to disability awards, payments, or benefits under any VA program.

What Documents are Needed to File a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit?

  • Documents proving residence at Camp Lejeune
  • Military service records indicating dates and locations served
  • Medical records and diagnoses
  • Medical bills
  • Travel records
  • Health care information
  • Records on disability benefits or VA compensation benefits

What is the Time Frame to File a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit?

The time frame to file a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit is limited. So, it’s essential to act quickly. All injury claims that occurred before the passage of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act have two years from Aug. 10, 2022, when the law was enacted to file their case

Are VA Benefits Available to Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Victims?

In January 2017, the Obama administration implemented a disability claims process through the Veteran’s Administration (VA) to provide disability benefits for veterans, reservists, and guardsmen diagnosed with presumptive medical conditions associated with exposure to Camp Lejeune contaminated water, including:

  • Adult leukemia
  • Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Bladder cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Parkinson’s disease

Family members are also eligible for reimbursement of out-of-pocket health costs related to 15 conditions, including:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Female infertility
  • Hepatic steatosis
  • Kidney cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Lung cancer
  • Miscarriage
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Neurobehavioral effects
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Renal toxicity
  • Scleroderma

Camp Lejeune Water Contamination FAQs

Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawyers

When we sent our service members into harm’s way, we promised to care for them and their loved ones—and pay for that care—upon their return. Yet, Congress has been slow to honor this pact. But the passing of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act under the Honoring Our PACT Act has changed that. Those exposed to Camp Lejeune contaminated water who suffered injuries may be entitled to compensation beyond their VA benefits.

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We live by our motto of “helping those who need it most” and have helped thousands of clients who were injured or suffered other losses through no fault of their own. If you feel you may possibly have a case, please contact us. The consultation is free, and you pay us nothing if we don’t win for you.

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