Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune is a massive 246-square-mile United States Marine training facility in Jacksonville, North Carolina. It was founded in 1941 and is home to more than 130,000 Marines and their families, as well as civilians and contractors. The facility is primarily used for live fire exercises across its wide swath of the North Carolina coast. Militaries from around the world come to Camp Lejeune each year to train and work alongside the US Marines stationed there.
However, outside of the local population, very few people are aware that Camp Lejeune harbors a dark past. For more than thirty years, from 1953 to 1987, thousands of military members, their families, and others stationed at the base were being slowly poisoned without their knowledge. For many, the medical problems would take decades to arise, for others, such as children lost in the womb, the effects were immediate.
In this article, we’ll examine the Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit, its history, and what is being done to ensure that our United States veterans get the care and compensation they deserve via legislation and the Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit.
History of the Investigation
In the 1970s, a plethora of new environmental legislation was sweeping America and the globe. Environmentalism had finally gone mainstream, and with the new environmental laws came the need for massive testing and compliance campaigns across the country. The United States Military was no exception to these tests, but their legal obligation to comply with the laws themselves was somewhat different and, at times, non-existent.
The earliest tests of water at Camp Lejeune started in October of 1980. While the test results were shocking, they were sadly just the tip of the iceberg. Two of the eight wells tested on the base showed unsafe levels of organic cleaning solvents–this was traced to a nearby dry cleaning business that was discharging chemicals that seeped into the groundwater.
These results were presented to base officials and were ignored repeatedly. The wells in question continued to be used. In 1984, a second company was called in to conduct testing; these tests indicated high levels of benzene as well as PCE and TCE (Tetrachloroethylene and Trichloroethylene). The wells were then shut down.
However, because the EPA had set no standard for unsafe levels of PCE and TCE, as far as the Marines Corps were concerned, there wasn’t a problem. The information was swept under the rug. Furthermore, they failed to admit to the presence of benzene or acknowledge it as a possible threat to the health of base personnel.
In 1997, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) performed further testing and investigations. They reported that cancerous effects from the water were unlikely, but once again, the presence of benzene was ignored.
Finally, in 2009, the ATSDR was forced to retract its 1997 report and admit that benzene was the primary culprit of the contamination and illnesses that Marines and their families had been experiencing for years. It came to light that a poorly maintained fuel farm had been the cause of the benzene contamination. Over the course of thirty years, an estimated 800,000 gallons of benzene may have leaked into the groundwater at Camp Lejeune.
Compensation for Marines and Their Families
The beginning of justice came in the shape of legislation—the Janey Ensminger Act and the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012. Thanks to these laws, veterans and their families are now eligible not only for free VA healthcare related to the illnesses but they may be eligible to receive financial compensation in regards to lost wages or disabilities that may have occurred as a result of exposure at Camp Lejeune.
As of 2022, the United States Senate is still debating passing the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, which would provide former military and civilian residents of the base further rights to seek reparations from the U.S. government.
If you were stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune for thirty consecutive days or more between 1953 and 1987 and you became ill, you may have the right to financial compensation and should contact a qualified attorney, like those at Strom Law, as soon as possible so that you can begin your Camp Lejeune lawsuit.