- Overview of Compensation for Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune
- When was Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Discovered?
- What was in the Drinking Water at Camp Lejeune?
- What Illnesses and Symptoms are Related?
- What did the U.S. Government Know about Camp Lejeune Water Contamination?
- Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit
- What can I be Compensated for if Camp Lejeune Contaminated Water Injured Me?
- What Documents are Needed to File a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit?
- What is the Time Frame to File a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit?
- Camp Lejeune Justice Act – Case Progression
Overview of Compensation for 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
- 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 separate and distinct from Veteran’s Administration (VA) benefits.
When was Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Discovered?
The Camp Lejeune military training facility 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
- 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:
- Kidney Cancer
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Multiple Myeloma
- Adult Leukemias
- Liver Cancer
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Kidney Disease
- Scleroderma/Systemic Sclerosis
- Major Cardiac Birth Defects
- Lung Cancer
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 no investigation occurred.
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 for thirty days or more from the time period Aug. 1, 1953, to Dec. 31, 1987, and was exposed to the contaminated water on base and subsequently suffered injuries to file a claim against the U.S. government. Without this bill, military families and civilians suffering from the terrible health consequences caused from exposure to Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water supply would not have the ability to be compensated for their injuries due to North Carolina’s statute of repose that places a strict 10-year time period on individuals to bring suit. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act removes this strict statute of repose for these Camp Lejeune cases so that these cases can be heard on their merits.
Claims made under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act will be handled in a two-part process. First, an individual will have to make an administrative claim to the Department of the Navy. Second, six months after an administrative claim has been filed, a lawsuit can be filed in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of North Carolina. However, the time for filing is limited. All claims that involve an injury 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 administrative 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
- Loss of companionship, consortium, enjoyment of life, and earning capacity
- Permanent disability
- Other compensatory damages
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 claim is limited. So, it’s essential to act quickly. All injury and death 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 an administrative claim for their case.
Camp Lejeune Justice Act – Case Progression
Step 1: Claims
Administrative claim filed with Department of Navy
Intake Information Intake Information
• Legal name
• Birth date
• Dates on base
• Beasley Allen verifies all information and completes an Administrative claim on behalf of the client
• Beasley Allen files Administrative claim
• Client will be notified
• Department of Navy acknowledges receipt of claim
• assigns claim number
Department of the Navy has six (6) months to make a decision regarding a claim.
Four possible results:
Navy accepts claim and client receives settlement offer. Client accepts.
Case ends here.
Navy accepts claim and provides settlement to client. Client can decline offer.
Case proceeds to Step 2: Court.
The Navy denies the Administrative claim and does not provide a settlement offer to Client.
Case proceeds to Step 2: Court.
Six months pass and no action from Navy. Claim is deemed denied.
Case proceeds to Step 2: Court.
Step 2: Court
After Administrative claim, client will file either a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against the government in the Eastern District of North Carolina – federal court.
• Initiating document of a lawsuit. This document will lay out the facts of your case and allegations of wrongdoings.
• The Defendant, the United States of America, will get an opportunity to respond to all allegations within a client’s Complaint.
• Parties will exchange information, records, reports, and everything else needed to prove and defend the case.
• Expert witnesses will be used to prove aspects of a client’s case.
• Depositions will occur during this
• Parties can ask judge to rule on broad range of pretrial issues.
• These motions can range from evidentiary issues to motions to dismiss the case.
• Once discovery stage ends, Plaintiff and Defendant can meet with neutral third party to try to resolve the case before the case goes to trial.
• If the parties cannot reach a settlement, then trial begins.
• Opening statements, presentation of evidence, witnesses testify, closing statements, and then a jury verdict.
After the Jury releases their verdict, plaintiff will either win their case or the Defendant will be found not liable.
If the plaintiff wins, the Judge or Jury will state how much in monetary damages will be awarded to the Plaintiff.
If the Defendant is found not liable, the plaintiff will not receive any monetary compensation and their case will end.
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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