In the early 1980s, it was discovered that two water supply systems that serviced Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base camp in North Carolina, were contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs). As a result, almost a million military personnel and their family members were exposed to toxic water, which was found to be the cause of several medical issues.
The United States government has recognized the repercussions of the events, which cost the lives of some Camp Lejeune victims. There have been steps taken to compensate the affected, but while veterans and their family members are still prohibited from filing a Camp Lejeune lawsuit, which the new Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 aims to overturn, the attempts to amend it will remain insufficient.
What Happened at Camp Lejeune?
Created in 1941, Camp Lejeune is a military base that houses members of the military and their families. In 1982, it was found that the water from two water treatment plants servicing the area–Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point–was contaminated with toxic chemicals that posed health risks, including at least one exceeding EPA-allowed amounts. The contamination affected almost a million veterans and their families, who had serious effects.
What Were the Toxic Chemicals Found in the Water?
The most prevalent and hazardous contaminants found in the Camp Lejeune toxic water include:
- Trichloroethylene (TCE)
- Perchloroethylene (PCE)
- Vinyl chloride
Aside from these, other highly carcinogenic toxins, such as heavy metals, pesticides, and assorted polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), were found.
How Did the Toxic Chemicals Get There?
The contaminated water from Tarawa Terrace resulted from improper waste disposal of a nearby off-base dry cleaning firm. Meanwhile, Hadnot Point’s toxic water was contaminated by multiple sources, including leaky underground storage tanks, waste disposal sites, and industrial spills.
The Effects of the Camp Lejeune Contamination
Many people stationed at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 developed medical issues directly related to their exposure to the toxic water. As a result, the government has enacted laws to compensate the former residents affected.
Medical Health Issues
Ingestion of and exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune can result in serious health issues, including:
- Cancer (esophageal, breast, kidney, lung, bladder, cervical, ovarian, and stomach)
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Hepatic steatosis
- Aplastic anemia
- Parkinson’s disease
- Renal toxicity
- Female infertility
- Neurobehavioral effects
Some of these ailments were added to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) list of presumptive diseases that make former residents eligible for benefits–those former residents only have to prove they were at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 for a minimum of thirty days to receive compensation.
Recognizing the ill effects caused by the Camp Lejeune contamination, the U.S. government has taken legislative methods to provide veterans and military personnel compensation.
The Janey Ensminger Act allows non-military family members to apply for VA benefits, while the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act grants some benefits–including authorized coverage for out-of-pocket healthcare costs–to veterans, family members, and others exposed to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune if they met specific standards. Neither of these two acts, however, allows victims to file a claim for damages against the U.S. government for the incident.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act: A Step Towards Amends
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act aims to enable victims to file a lawsuit against the U.S. government and secure damages, as done in mass tort and personal injury cases. It covers all types of compensatory damages, including permanent injury, emotional losses, loss of consortium, disability, and wrongful death, and even allows those in-utero at the time of the exposure to seek compensation.
Although procedural errors and amendments have slowed down its progress, strong bipartisan support backs the bill. After negotiations, the senate is likely to pass the bill, and all that remains is the president’s signature for it to become law. Contact your state senators today to get the Camp Lejeune Justice Act moving.
Filing a Camp Lejeune Contamination Lawsuit
If you or a loved one was stationed at Camp Lejeune for at least thirty days between August 1st, 1953 and December 31st, 1987, you deserve just compensation for any injuries–and resulting financial repercussions, such as medical expenses–incurred due to the water contamination. If you would like to get started on filing a claim, or want to know more about the benefits you could receive, contact the qualified attorneys at Strom Law for help.