The drinking water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River contaminated approximately 1 million Marines, their dependents, and civilian contractors.
Long after their time at Camp Lejeune, many of those service members and their families are now feeling the effects of exposure to contaminated water.
They are now suffering from severe illnesses that likely wouldn’t have occurred had they not been exposed to the contaminants present at Camp Lejeune.
Were you present at Camp Lejeune before 1987 and are now suffering an illness?
It’s not too late to file a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit against the United States government to get compensation for this heinous exposure.
Read on to learn more about Camp Lejeune water contamination, getting benefits, and what you need to do to be a part of a lawsuit for compensation due to exposure.
What Is Camp Lejeune?
Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River are part of a huge compound for the US Marine Corps located in Onslow County, North Carolina.
The base first opened in 1940 because of its ideal location near deep water ports and its proximity to the Cherry Point base for aviation.
This is one of the largest military installations anywhere in the world. In fact, Camp Lejeune boasts having the largest concentration of marines and sailors anywhere in the world.
Whether a marine or sailor is a seasoned military member or new and about to get shipped abroad, there’s a good chance they will spend some time at Camp Lejeune.
This was true from the time the base opened, and remains true today. The base obviously houses huge areas for training and housing all the service members.
It’s a huge facility encompassing:
- 6,946 buildings and facilities
- 450 miles of roads
- 153,439 acres
- 14 miles of beach on the Atlantic Ocean
Located near Jacksonville, North Carolina, the area is a military town and one that generations of Marines have visited and occupied.
History of the Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune
There are eight water treatment plants to operate and manage the many personnel and training that occurs on the base and its surrounding area.
In 1982, the U.S. government discovered specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs) located in the drinking water on the base. It was further discovered that two of the eight water treatment plants were the source of the contaminants.
These water treatment plants were Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point. The water from these two treatment plants was found to contain industrial solvents trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE).
These two treatment plants were also responsible for providing drinking water for a large percentage of the population in and around the base.
Contaminated water from these water treatment plants sent water to base, including:
- Enlisted-family housing
- Barracks for unmarried service personnel
- Recreational areas
- Base administrative offices
- The base hospital
- Housing on the Holcomb Boulevard water system
While construction of the base began in 1940, it wasn’t until 1943 that service members began living and working on the base.
Eligibility for water contamination benefits are for those who were at Camp Lejeune between August 1953 through December 1987.
How Did the Water Contamination Happen at Camp Lejeune?
It seems like the simplest question, but how could contamination and exposure at this scope have possibly happened?
There are a few events that led to the water contamination. It’s important to understand how it happened, so you can understand better who was likely impacted because of it.
There were three of the eight treatment plants found to have contaminants in the water they were supplying. These plants included:
- Tarawa Terrace
- Hadnot Point
- Holcomb Boulevard
Each of these treatment plants used multiple wells as water sources. They would pull water from the wells, and it would get sent to the treatment plant to prep it for drinking water.
Not all of the wells contained contaminants. Unfortunately, the problem was widespread because when water was pulled from the contaminated wells, it was mixed with unpolluted water at the treatment centers.
The Tarawa Terrace water treatment plant had the contaminant of PCE in the water. It’s believed this came from an off-base dry cleaner, ABC One-Hour Cleaners, who dumped chemicals from the business into the ground where it then contaminated the water.
The Hadnot Point location had the contaminant TCE (trichloroethylene). It also had other contaminants including:
- PCE (perchloroethylene or tetrachloroethylene)
- DCE (trans-1,2-dichloroethylene)
- Vinyl chloride
These contaminants were believed to have come from waste disposal sites and leaking underground storage tanks dumped on the base.
Holcomb Boulevard water treatment plant operated unpolluted for many years. But there was a four-year period where those wells got shut down, and contaminated water from Hadnot Point was supplied to Holcomb Boulevard.
Who Was Impacted by the Water Contamination?
The scope of water contamination is so encompassing for two reasons. First, contaminated water was being used in daily life for drinking, bathing, washing dishes, and more for many, many years.
Second, because the base is so large and so many years passed, the number of people impacted is profound.
Tarawa Terrace provided water from 1952 to March of 1987. Nearly all of that time, the water had unhealthy levels of pollutants and contaminants.
Tarawa Terrace supplied water for Tarawa Terrace family housing and Knox Trailer Park.
Hadnot Point began providing water in 1942. The tricky part of studying this water plant was that it held several different contaminants, making it trickier to identify when each became a factor.
The water treatment plant provided water for:
- Mainside barracks
- Family housing at Midway Park, Paradise Point, and Berkeley Manor
- Hospital Point family housing
It was mostly out of use by February 1985.
Finally, Holcomb Boulevard began providing base water in 1972 for:
- Midway Park
- Paradise Point
- Berkeley Manor
- Watkins Village
It also serviced Tarawa Terrace family housing after March 1987. There was water from Hadnot Point used on and off through these years and for a solid four-year period when their own wells weren’t functioning.
What Contaminants Caused the Exposure?
As water studies began late in the 1980s on Camp Lejeune water, it became clear quickly that the water contained several dangerous contaminants. Each has its own worrisome impact on the health of humans over time.
These contaminants included:
- Trichloroethylene and Perchloroethylene
- Vinyl Chloride
- Other Contaminants
While the culprits were two main volatile organic compounds (VOCs) mostly believed to have come from a dry cleaning solvent and a degreaser from leading storage tanks; there were as many as 70 possible different chemicals present in water samples.
It’s important to know what exposure may have happened and the impact of that exposure. Let’s take a closer look at the main culprits and what kind of illnesses they can create for our bodies.
Trichloroethylene and Perchloroethylene
Trichloroethylene and Perchloroethylene were just two of the contaminants found at the Hadnot Point and Tarawa Terrace locations.
These chemicals are widely known to cause several types of cancers, especially cancer of the liver and kidneys. They are also associated with:
- Hodgkin’s disease
- Non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Cervical cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Prostate cancer
- Laryngeal cancer
- Colon cancer
It’s widely believed that a big contributor to the cancers associated from the water contamination at Camp Lejeune is connected to the dry cleaning chemicals that seeped into the water wells.
In addition to dry cleaning chemicals, these toxins can be found in degreasers, paint removers, solvents for chemical extraction, and components of adhesives and lubricants, all most likely present on the base.
Benzene is a colorless chemical that will quickly evaporate in the air. It is, however, heavier than air making it sink down and sit at low lying areas of the ground.
Benzene won’t dissolve completely in water, and when in water can be seen sitting almost like a film at the surface of the water.
Benzene is widely used in a variety of products in the U.S. and is commonly found in crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke.
Long-term impacts of exposure to benzene usually impact a person’s blood. It’s harmful to bone marrow in the body and can cause a decrease in red blood cells. It’s another cancer-causing agent, especially in cases of leukemia, which is cancer of the blood-forming organs.
Toluene is another colorless chemical found in the water at Camp Lejeune. Like Benzene, it will quickly evaporate in the air.
It’s believed the source of the benzene was the degreasers that got dumped in storage tanks at Camp Lejeune.
It’s believed that toluene causes:
- Lung cancer
- Breast cancer
- Esophagus cancer
- Stomach cancer
- Colon cancer
- Cancer of the rectum
It’s also believed that those who work with Toluene also have a high risk for lymphosarcoma, lymph leukemia, and Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Toluene exposure in high quantities often comes from breathing in the vapor that comes from paints, paint thinners, or glues.
Vinyl chloride is a chemical commonly found in plastics and the production of plastics. The vinyl chloride causes higher than normal rates of cancer in the liver and lungs, and angiosarcoma,
Polyvinyl chloride is dangerous for the human liver and is widely associated with liver cancers and hepatocellular carcinoma.
This toxin is dangerous because of the volume of its use and also how quickly it can impact the body. Vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) can get absorbed through breathing into the lungs but then quickly get metabolized in the liver.
Much of the focus of the contaminants from Camp Lejeune was focused on the main five: Trichloroethylene, Perchloroethylene, Benzene, Toluene, and vinyl chloride.
Yet, as more research was done, especially by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), more chemicals found present were identified. In fact, there were hundreds more chemicals of concern.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified a long list of contaminants of concern (COCs).
As the EPA worked to identify those COCs, they:
- Identify people that could be exposed to contamination found at the site
- Determine the type of contaminants present and in what amounts
- Determines the human health that could result from contact with the contaminants
Of the hundreds of COCs identified as a concern, most came from groundwater and soil samples in and around the base.
Impact of the Exposure to These Contaminants
Knowing that over a million veterans, civilians, and their family members came through Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River, the impact of these contaminants is profound.
The contaminated water was sent to areas of the base where many families lived and went to school over many years.
Research is also showing that these contaminants are dangerous cancer-causing agents.
The U.S. government and health officials are well aware of the impact these of these toxins that are now, many years later, dangeroulsy affecting the people who were exposed at Camp Lejeune.
Let’s take a closer look at what impact the contaminants are having on those who were a part of the Camp Lejeune population and what’s being done to support those people.
Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012
The first thing the federal government did was pass the Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012. This act allows veterans and their families who qualify to get cost-free health care benefits for certain health conditions.
The benefits are available for:
They needed to be at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days of active duty during the period of August 1953 through December 1987. The VA does specify that the veteran, to be eligible, can’t have been dishonorably discharged from military service.
These veterans can enroll through the V.A. for health care and receive medical services.
You can contact your local V.A. office or call 1-877-222-8387 to get information. You can also visit the V.A. online to apply for benefits through the Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012.
VA Rule 38 CFR 3
Additionally, in March of 2017, VA Rule 38 CFR 3 went into effect for additional services for impacted veterans.
This new rule helped the veterans, including National Guard members, get additional support. The VA added to the list of presumptive illnesses eligible (more on this shortly).
The VA has eight illnesses that they don’t require as much documentation for benefits for if you were at Camp Lejeune during the period in question, August 1953 through December 1987. These include:
- Adult leukemia
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
There’s a long list of presumptive illnesses for veterans and their families that may be eligible. If you or a family member is ill or has died of cancer and were at Camp Lejeune, you should apply for benefits whether your specific sickness is listed or not.
More on how to apply shortly.
Illnesses and Symptoms from Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
As more research develops, it has become clear that there’s a long list of illnesses and symptoms related to exposure, especially from TCE, PCE, benzene, and vinyl chloride.
This list includes, but is not limited to:
- Bladder cancer
- Breast cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Female infertility
- Hepatic steatosis
- Kidney cancer
- Lung cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Neurobehavioral effects
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Renal toxicity
The ATSDR has said anyone at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days is at a higher risk of cancers (kidney, multiple myeloma, leukemias, and others).
Remember, this is for veterans and their families. Of particular noteworthiness is that many unborn children, infants, and children were exposed and run the risk of birth defects, birth injuries, and a host of cancers.
VA benefits for Camp Lejeune water contamination are available. Again, the requirements are as follows:
- 30 cumulative days spent at Camp Lejeune
- Active duty August 1953 through December 1987
- Can’t have been dishonorably discharged
- Ill with at least one of the previously listed cancers or other illnesses
The VA will provide medical coverage and medical services. These will be provided without a co-pay necessary.
They will also provide reimbursement for medical care and services if you can’t get to a V.A. facility. You’ll be required to provide documentation.
Again, it’s important to stress that if you meet the residency requirements for Camp Lejeune benefits eligibility, but your cancer or illness isn’t specifically listed, you should still apply for benefits.
If the V.A. declines your application, seek the assistance of an experienced law firm that knows the intricacies of water contamination at Camp Lejeune.
Who Gets Benefits?
With over a million people impacted by water contamination on this base, there’s a long list of those who are eligible for benefits.
The following groups are eligible for direct V.A. benefits:
Remember, they must meet the other eligibility requirements listed in the previous section.
Family members are also eligible for some reimbursement from care. More on this shortly.
In short, if you spent even the most limited amount of time at Camp Lejeune and are now ill, you should seek help from the V.A. and expect some benefits.
How to Apply for Benefits
If you believe you fit the V.A. criteria, the V.A. owes you for your service and should care for you now that you’re ill. It’s important to know the steps for filing a claim to receive those benefits.
There are several options for filing a claim. You can choose any of the following options:
- File a claim online on VA.gov
- Get help from an accredited representative, like a Veterans service officer (VSO)
- Get help at a V.A. regional office
The VA will ask you to provide some information as part of your claim. You’ll want to be able to provide the following:
- Military records showing you served at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River for at least 30 days
- These should show you were there between August 1953 through December 1987 while on active duty or in the National Guard or Reserves
- Medical records stating that you have one (or more) of the eight illnesses
- Medical records that show documentation for one of the long list of presumptive illnesses
The VA does make clear that when you apply, you should make clear on your application that you’re applying because of a Camp Lejeune illness and need those particular benefits.
Family Members Suffering from Camp Lejeune Exposure
It’s important to note that if you were at Camp Lejeune and also had your family with you, they are also eligible for some V.A. benefits if they’ve become ill.
Remember, all three of the contaminated water treatment plants serviced areas of the base where families of service members lived. This contamination was not exclusive to those on active duty at the time.
To qualify for V.A. benefits as a family member, you need to be:
- The spouse or dependent of a veteran who was on active duty and served at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987
- Lived on the base for 30 days or more between the same dates
- An infant born of a woman pregnant on the base during this period
The process for applying is the same and requires the same criteria. You’ll need to show you were related to a service member who was at Camp Lejeune during the period in question. You can do this using a marriage license, birth certificate, or adoption papers.
You’ll need paperwork showing residency at the camp for this time period and medical documentation showing your illness.
Family members don’t receive medical care or services. They can get reimbursement for care and co-pays for services provided for approved presumptive illnesses.
What Did the U.S. Government Know About Camp Lejeune Contamination and When?
For those impacted, it’s hard not to question how a disaster of this magnitude could happen. How did the U.S. government allow this to happen?
You have to wonder what they likely know about the contaminants and when.
The EPA identified Camp Lejeune as a major polluter as early as the 1970s. They were well aware of Camp Lejeune’s practice of dumping oil and industrial wastewater. At this time in history, the health impacts of these solvents were well recognized.
By 1980, there were even tighter environmental regulations in place. This led to more testing at the water wells at Camp Lejeune. As early as 1982, the Marine Corps knew of the results that showed contaminants in the water.
Yet, still, nothing was acknowledged or done to address the water issues for several more years.
Filing a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit
While the Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 and subsequent additions to it provide healthcare benefits for those impacted, the U.S. government has been slow and resistant to recognizing the problems at Camp Lejeune.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 under the Honoring Our PACT Act is working its way through Congress and will help to address the wrongdoings that occurred at Camp Lejeune.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act allows anyone who lived at Camp Lejeune to file a claim against the U.S. government. To be eligible to file a claim, you must meet the following criteria:
- Lived or worked at the base from August 1, 1953, to December 31, 1987
- At least 30 days of residency
- Exposed to the contaminated water and suffered injuries
This act will override an obscure North Carolina law that prevents compensation past 10 years. It allows the opportunity to seek compensation beyond just medical care and services for the damages done.
Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 and Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022
Camp Lejeune water contamination in 2021 and 2022 is getting more attention than ever from the U.S. government.
First, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act added additional presumptive illnesses to the already long list eligible for care.
It also opens up the opportunity for true litigation for compensation. It allows victims to file a lawsuit and seek compensation for their illnesses.
The illnesses will be treated like an injury would be in a personal injury case. All claims filed will be handled like a personal injury mass tort and consolidated in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of North Carolina.
Any of the injury claims that were filed on behalf of victims before the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 will now have two years to actually file a claim in court. This two (2) year period will begin when the president signs the bill into law.
Types of Compensation
So, what does the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2021 from the Honoring Our Pact of 2022 make eligible for victims?
The act allows for the following to be a part of any claim:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Disability benefits
- Permanent disability
- Loss of companionship, consortium, enjoyment of life, and earning capacity
In addition to these important changes, this act opens up the possibility of filing for other compensatory damages if you were a victim of the poisoning at Camp Lejeune.
Compensatory damages and pain and suffering compensation are key to making right a long history of injustices for those who were at Camp Lejeune.
What Do You Need to File a Lawsuit from Exposure?
You are probably wondering what you need to do to file a claim and get your due compensation. It’s important to work with an experienced law firm that knows Camp Lejeune, the area, and the impact the contamination had on those present from 1953 to 1987.
Like filing for V.A. benefits, you’ll need some documentation to file a lawsuit as part of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2021. You will need:
- Documents proving residency at Camp Lejeune during the years in question
- Military service records indicating dates and locations served
- Medical records showing your diagnosis
- Medical bills
- Travel records
- Health care information
- Records on disability benefits
- V.A. compensation benefits
Once you meet with an attorney, they can organize all your documentation and start to prepare your claim so that when the act comes out of Congress, it’s ready to go.
Filing Time Limit: Act Now
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 is written in a way that it won’t allow lawsuits to drag on forever and ever.
If you have an injury claim before the passage of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, you only have two years to file a claim.
You will want to act quickly, meet with an attorney, and get started on the compensation you deserve. Let the attorney help you be a part of the Camp Lejeune water contamination case.
Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Settlement Amounts
In addition to medical benefits and services, you might wonder what kinds of settlement amounts are available. These amounts are likely to be impacted by the number of claims made and the jury verdicts entered in the cases that are tried to a jury first.
Lawsuit and V.A. Benefits, You Can Do Both
If you’re already getting V.A. benefits for your illness, you might wonder if you can still file a claim and be a part of a lawsuit.
The answer is yes. You can get both V.A. benefits and file a claim through the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of North Carolina.
If you’re ill from water contamination, the V.A. should be providing medical care and services. Filing a legal claim may also make available funds for lost wages, pain and suffering, and other compensatory damages.
Camp Lejeune Now
If you haven’t been at Camp Lejeune for a long time, you might wonder about the status of the water now. The military base remains a bustling installation for the US Marine Corp.
The contaminated wells impacting water safety have been shut down. The Marine Corps reports that the water at Camp Lejeune has been safe since March 1987.
Regular water testing continues to ensure it remains safe. More research into water contamination and its impact also continues through the ASTDR and the EPA.
Get the Help You Need With Your Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit
What happened to the military personnel and their families at Camp Lejeune is just wrong. It impacted so many veterans and their loved ones in horrible ways.
Do you need help with a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit? We’re experienced North Carolina attorneys, licensed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina and we are familiar with the community around Camp Lejeune.
Contact us today so we can help you with your water contamination claim.