Between 1953 and 1987, a silent tragedy was unfolding at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina. The base’s water supply had become severely contaminated, and this contamination led to a range of deadly health issues for thousands of Marines, their families, and contractors stationed at the base.
This article will explore what exactly happened to the water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, some of the health effects caused by the exposure, and how those affected are pursuing compensation via Camp Lejeune lawsuits.
What Happened to the Water Supply at Camp Lejeune?
In the 1970s, environmental legislation was sweeping America. Landmark pieces of legislation such as the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act led to mass testing campaigns of water throughout the United States, and the U.S. Military was no exception to these testing requirements.
In the early 1980s, an outside company was brought in to test the water supply of Camp Lejeune. These early tests identified two primary contaminants—PCE and TCE (Tetrachloroethylene and Trichloroethylene, respectively). These chemicals were traced to a nearby drycleaning company that was allowing their chemicals to seep into the groundwater.
Despite these early conclusions, the base management ignored the results and business as usual continued at the base. In 1984, a separate company was brought in for further testing. This time, they identified benzene as a contaminant; once again, these results were swept under the rug. The base’s wells were not shut down until 1987.
Throughout the 1990s, the denial and stonewalling continued, including in 1997 when the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) performed further testing and reported that cancerous effects from the water were unlikely. After media coverage and veterans continuing to come forward with serious illnesses, in 2009, the ATSDR was forced to retract its 1997 report and admit that benzene was the primary cause of the illnesses that Marines and their families had been experiencing for years.
Over thirty years, it’s estimated that a mind-boggling 800,000 gallons of benzene leaked into the groundwater at Camp Lejeune from a fuel farm located directly next to the two wells that serviced the base’s living quarters and its hospital.
Health Effects and Dental Issues Related to Exposure
Numerous health conditions, cancers, and chronic diseases have been linked to exposure to the well water at Camp Lejeune. Here is a list of diseases officially recognized by Veterans Affairs (VA) as related to the Camp Lejeune contamination:
- Aplastic anemia
- Multiple myeloma
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Parkinson’s disease
- Adult leukemia
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
Just because a disease is not officially recognized does not mean compensation cannot be claimed. Exactly what diseases are associated with Camp Lejeune water contamination is still up for debate; for example, some veterans have reported heart disease caused by the Camp Lejeune water contamination. Here is a list of further issues that have been linked to the exposure:
- Lung cancer
- Neurobehavioral effects
- Renal toxicity
- Breast cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Female infertility
- Hepatic steatosis
Furthermore, several veterans and their families have reported dental issues related to their time spent at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. After all, the primary method of toxic exposure was drinking, bathing, and brushing teeth–all using the contaminated water. Symptoms include teeth cracking and tooth decay.
What Is Being Done?
One of the biggest problems in obtaining compensation for victims and forcing the VA to acknowledge what happened has been the time between exposure and health problems manifesting. In some cases, cancers can take years to appear, leading many doctors and veterans to not connect the dots between Camp Lejeune and the illness that occured years later.
Initially, veterans had trouble filing lawsuits due to laws prohibiting veterans from suing the government for injuries sustained during service, as well as a North Carolina law that put a ten-year statute of limitations on claims. Thankfully, many of these roadblocks have been remedied within the recently-passed Camp Lejeune Justice Act.
If you or a loved one was stationed at Camp Lejeune for thirty or more consecutive days between 1953 and 1987 and went on to develop health complications, you or they may be entitled to compensation from the government. Strom Law understands these cases and can work with you to ensure you get the compensation you deserve.