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How Did the Water Become Contaminated at Camp Lejeune?

Many veterans and their families who lived at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 have died or developed serious health complications from consuming contaminated water at the camp. If you lived or worked at Camp Lejeune between August 1st, 1953 and December 31st, 1987, you may qualify to file a claim for Camp Lejeune water contamination.

However, you’ll need to hire an experienced Camp Lejeune settlement attorney to help you file your claim. A qualified personal injury attorney will understand all the legal obstacles you might encounter when filing your claim and how to evade them. With a personal injury attorney from a respected law firm like Strom Law, you’re much more likely to receive a well-deserved Camp Lejeune lawsuit settlement.

How the Water at Camp Lejeune Became Contaminated

Camp Lejeune is a Marine Corps base camp and a military training facility in Jacksonville, North Carolina. The construction of the camp started in 1941 on Marine Barracks New River, with the first base headquarters being constructed in a summer cottage on Montford Point. In 1942, the camp was renamed in honor of the 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps, John A. Lejeune, following his demise.

At that time, the camp lacked proper environmental stewardship. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) referred to the camp as a “major polluter” in the 1970s, as it simply poured its industrial waste and wastewater into storm drains. However, most of the deadly contaminants found in the water at the camp didn’t come from internal waste.

Scientific studies conducted by the EPA in the 1980s revealed that the main source of water contamination at the camp was an off-base dry cleaning company named ABC One-Hour Dry Cleaners, which dumped its wastewater laden with hazardous cleaning chemicals into nearby drains. One of the main toxins found in the water was tetrachloroethylene (PCE), which is a known carcinogenic. This toxin is suspected to be responsible for most Camp Lejeune water contamination lung diseases, including lung cancer.

The Marines, reservists, National Guard officers, and their families in the camp unknowingly consumed the contaminated water for several decades. In October 1980, following the enactment of tougher environmental regulations, military chemists began testing drinking water at Camp Lejeune. A test of one water well that the camp relied on for drinking water showed traces of organic compounds, or solvents, in treated water. These results were only released to the Marines two years later.

Even after receiving the results, the camp didn’t investigate the claims. As more tests were done, the presence of chemical compounds in the drinking water at the camp became even more apparent. In 1981, Camp Lejeune started testing water in the surrounding areas to see if the contaminants came from the hazardous waste dump near the water wells. These tests led to the closure of one of the camp’s rifle range water wells, but the corps didn’t offer an explanation for its closure.

In 1982, an independent laboratory was hired to test at the camp and the first lab tests shocked the chemists–they discovered high levels of synthetic cleaning solvents in water that serviced two of the camp’s largest living areas. The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) estimated that the concentration of PCE in the water from the Tarawa Terrace well exceeded the EPA maximum contaminant level of five PPB for 346 months.

These revelations led to the closure of most water wells around the camp in 1985. Further investigations revealed that most of the chemicals found in the water originated from the neighboring off-base dry cleaner, but the blame was placed on Marine officials at the camp for ignoring initial warnings and failing to disclose the findings to those living in the camp. In 2012, President Obama signed the Janey Ensminger Act into law, providing medical care for the victims of the contamination.

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