Select Justice
Expertise
Giving Back
About
Blog

How Did Camp Lejeune's Water Supply Get Contaminated?

Author
Alicia Betz
November 26, 2023

From 1953 to 1987, the water at Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base in Jacksonville, North Carolina was contaminated with toxic chemicals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Service members and civilians who drank and used this water have subsequently developed an array of ailments, including various types of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and ALS. 

Free Case Evaluation

If you believe your medical condition was caused by Camp Lejeune water contamination, you may be entitled to compensation.

line

How did the contaminants get in the water, why did the water remain contaminated for so long, and what should those who were affected do now? 

Contaminants at Camp Lejeune 

The water supply at Camp Lejeune was contaminated mostly by two main chemicals: trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE). Other contaminants including DCE (trans-1,2-dichloroethylene), vinyl chloride, and benzene were found in the water supply as well. These chemicals are known carcinogens, and they have been linked to various diseases. 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has compiled a list of possible effects of being exposed to these VOCs. In addition, they explained who may be more affected by exposure: “the effects of exposure to any chemical depend on when you are exposed (during pregnancy, in infancy, etc), how much you are exposed to, how long you are exposed, how you are exposed (breathing, drinking), and what your personal traits and habits are.” The water contamination at Camp Lejeune went on for decades, exposing pregnant women, children, and others for years. It’s reasonable to assume that many people had dangerously high levels of exposure. 

How did PCE Contaminate the Water at Camp Lejeune? 

PCE is used as a dry cleaning solvent, and the contamination in the water was derived from a dry cleaning facility that was located off base. The facility, called ABC One-Hour Cleaners, didn’t dispose of their waste correctly, and the improper disposal is what led to contamination. In some instances, they buried the chemical, and contamination also came from a leak in their septic tank system. This caused PCE to leak into groundwater and soil. 

At the height of known contamination, PCE was found at a level of 215 parts per billion. The maximum amount of PCE that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows in water is five parts per billion. 

PCE contamination was found at Tarawa Terrace (TT), which served Tarawa Terrace family housing and Knox trailer park. The contamination at Tarawa Terrace affected thousands of people.

How did TCE Contaminate the Water at Camp Lejeune? 

TCE is a solvent used to remove grease from metal. It’s also used to make a specific type of refrigerant. The source of the contamination came from multiple different areas on base. Three main sources of contamination included leaks from storage tanks, waste disposal sites, and industrial area spills. 

At the height of known contamination, TCE was found at a level of 1,400 parts per billion. The maximum amount of PCE that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows in water is five parts per billion. 

TCE contamination was found at Hadnot Point, which mainly served barracks, family housing, and residential areas. Like the contamination at Tarawa Terrace, the Hadnot Point contamination affected thousands of people. 

In addition to TCE, PCE, DCE (trans-1,2-dichloroethylene), vinyl chloride, and benzene were also detected at Hadnot Point. 

Other Areas of Contamination at Camp Lejeune

In addition to contamination at Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point, people served by the Holcomb Boulevard treatment plant sometimes received contaminated water as well. From 1972 to 1985, water from Hadnot Point was used to supplement water at Holcomb Boulevard intermittently. 

Why Wasn’t Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune Stopped? 

It’s unclear how long the government knew about the water contamination at Camp Lejeune. The earliest public record of contamination was in 1982. At that time, testing found the water at Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point to be contaminated. Water at the six other treatment plants on base was not contaminated at that time. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, most of the contaminated water wells were shut down by 1985. Although the water was not tested at the beginning of the contamination in 1953, “The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) used a data analysis and modeling approach to reconstruct historical contaminant concentrations. Using these approaches, ATSDR estimated that PCE concentrations exceeded the current EPA maximum contaminant level of 5 ppb in drinking water from the Tarawa Terrace water treatment plant for 346 months.” (source) This historical reconstruction is how they estimated that contamination began in 1953. A similar reconstruction was done for TCE. 

It is also unclear why the wells were not shut down immediately following the discovery of the contamination. For decades, thousands of people drank, cooked with, and bathed in contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. 

There is Hope for People Who Drank Contaminated Water at Camp Lejeune  

If you served, worked, or lived at Camp Lejeune from 1953 to 1987, It’s very disheartening to know that you and your family were drinking contaminated water. It’s especially disheartening to know that better monitoring and action could have prevented the diseases you may face today. 

As it currently stands, members of the armed forces are not able to sue the United States Government for any injuries they got while they were serving. Those who drank contaminated water at Camp Lejeune are, however, able to receive VA benefits. 

In the near future, there is hope that veterans and their families will be able to sue the government and seek justice for the damage done at Camp Lejeune. The Honoring our PACT Act of 2022 is a bill that will likely soon pass into law. If and when it does, those affected by the water at Camp Lejeune will have two years to sue the government. 

Affected people include any service members, civilian workers, or people who lived on base for at least 30 days. Some of the sustained illnesses and injuries may include ALS, adult leukemia, breast cancer, liver disease, lung cancer, and miscarriages. If you believe you have suffered harm as a result of drinking or using water at Camp Lejeune, talk to a lawyer about your case today. If the bill is signed into law, you will only have two years to act, which makes gathering your case now essential.

At Select Justice, our team partners with experienced, compassionate attorneys to get you the best outcome for your case. Our partners work on a contingency system that means if you don’t win, you don’t pay. Contact Select Justice today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation and begin your journey to justice.

Free Case Evaluation

If you believe your medical condition was caused by Camp Lejeune water contamination, you may be entitled to compensation.

line

Related Articles

March 3, 2024
The Deadline for Camp Lejeune Contaminated Water Claims is Fast Approaching

Importantly, the Act sets a definitive deadline for filing claims: August 10, 2024. This date is a crucial call to action for those affected, emphasizing the urgency of legal recourse within the two-year window provided by the statute of limitations.

Read More
November 3, 2023
The Many Symptoms of Water Contamination

By knowing the symptoms of water contamination, you can protect yourself and your family when you act quickly after suspecting contamination.

Read More
October 22, 2023
What is the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit All About?

From 1953 to 1987, toxic chemicals were present in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base in North Carolina at a much higher level than the allowable limit.

Read More

About us

We are here to help you and loved ones advocate for justice. Feel free to send us any questions you might have, either about an injury or the process for pursuing justice so we can help you exercise your rights.

Social Media

Stay updated!
Join us to learn more

Facebook IconYouTube IconTwitter Icon

© Copyright Jazz Media Ltd. 2024. All rights reserved

About us

We are here to help you and loved ones advocate for justice. Feel free to send us any questions you might have, either about an injury or the process for pursuing justice so we can help you exercise your rights.

Facebook IconYouTube IconTwitter Icon

© Copyright Jazz Media Ltd. 2020. All rights reserved

crossmenuchevron-down