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What is the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit All About?

Author
Alicia Betz
June 22, 2022

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set standards for public drinking water systems. Often, contaminants enter our drinking water, but most contaminants are allowed and considered safe at a very small level.  

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

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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. The contamination may have led to cancer, disease, and even death, and it affected over one million people. The affected people included both service members and civilians. 

Camp Lejeune is a Marine Corps base and military training facility that spans over 250 square miles. It’s home to service members and their families; civilian employees work and live there as well. From the 1950s through the 1980s, the public water system serving the base was contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other carcinogens, mainly trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE). 

What was Camp Lejeune Water Contaminated With? 

Two main chemicals that contaminated the water at Camp Lejeune were tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE). These toxic chemicals were both found at levels much higher than the limit allowed by the EPA. 

PCE

PCE is a clear liquid often used by dry cleaners. It was present in the water supply at Camp Lejeune at 215 parts per billion. The allowable level of PCE in a water supply is just five parts per billion. PCE contamination occurred from a dry cleaner located near the base that did not properly dispose of its waste. PCE contaminated water at the Tarawa Terrace Treatment Plant, one of the eight treatment plants on base. The contamination of PCE lasted for 346 months.

TCE

TCE is a chemical used for refrigerants and as a degreaser on military equipment. It was present in the water supply at Camp Lejeune at 1,400 parts per billion. The allowable level of TCE in a water supply is five parts per billion. TCE contamination may have originated from spills and leaks from underground storage tanks as well as waste disposal sites. TCE contaminated water at the Hadnot Point Treatment Plant, one of the eight treatment plants on base. 

Additionally, vinyl chloride and benzene were found in the water supply as well. These contaminants have been linked to various cancers.

While the vast majority of the water contamination occurred in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, the water at Camp Lejeune was found to be contaminated in more recent years as well. In 2012, mercury was found in the water supply. The contamination likely came from water pressure meters. These meters were removed in 1980. 

The levels of chemicals found in the water at Camp Lejeune are over 200 times the amount allowed in safe drinking water. These high levels of contaminants have left thousands of people will health problems. 

What Are the Effects of Camp Lejeune Water Contamination? 

Continually ingesting these chemicals that contaminated the water had dire consequences for people who worked or lived at Camp Lejeune. They even affected babies who were in utero during the time of contamination. Some of the harmful effects these chemicals can cause include: 

  • Birth defects
  • Neurological disorders
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Bladder cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Lung cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Myelodysplastic syndrome 
  • ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease)
  • Infertility
  • Miscarriage
  • Brain injuries
  • Cardiac defects
  • Fatty liver disease 

There is a very large number of people who have faced illness, injury, or death due to the water contamination at Camp Lejeune. Many of the diseases and ailments caused by the chemicals didn’t present until years after people were exposed. 

Did the Government Know About Contaminated Water at Camp Lejeune? 

According to the Centers for Disease Control’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the government knew that there were VOCs in the water at Camp Lejeune as early as 1982, five years before toxins were eliminated from the water.

Lawsuits against the government claim that they failed to protect people and warn them of the dangers of the water. Additionally, some lawsuits may seek to hold the businesses that contaminated the water accountable. 

What To Do if You Drank Water at Camp Lejeune 

Of course, the first thing you should do if you drank water at Camp Lejeune from 1953 to 1987 is to contact your doctor, especially if you are feeling unwell. If you drank water at Camp Lejeune after 2012, that water was tested and determined to be safe. Today, all water on the base is tested more often than required and meets the EPA’s standards for clean drinking water. 

In the past, people were not able to successfully seek compensation for their injuries at Camp Lejeune due to a North Carolina law called the statute of repose. Under this law, those injured by the water couldn’t seek legal action because it had been more than three years since they ingested the dangerous water. 

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 was introduced into the House on January 25, 2022. It’s intended “to establish a cause of action for those harmed by exposure to water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and for other purposes.” The bill may soon come into law, making it possible for people affected by the water to seek compensation for their injuries. It would remove that three-year limitation so the thousands of people affected can finally seek legal action. 

Anybody who lived or worked in Camp Lejeune from 1953 to 1987 and was exposed to the water for at least 30 days will be able to file a toxic water lawsuit. This includes service members, their families, workers, and even people who were in utero during those years. Once the bill is enacted, you will have two years to take action. 

If you were exposed to water at Camp Lejeune during the years it was contaminated, you can speak to a lawyer to find out how you can fight for compensation for your injuries. In addition to being able to seek legal action for your injuries, you might also be eligible for VA disability benefits if you served at Camp Lejeune and developed one of the conditions thought to have been caused by the contaminants in the drinking water.

Free Case Evaluation

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

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