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What to Know About Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
For more than three decades—from the early 1950s to the late 1980s—more than 1 million military personnel and their families stationed and living at Camp Lejeune were exposed to toxic chemicals in their drinking water. This contamination came to light during an EPA investigation in the late 1980s, leading to Camp Lejeune being listed as a Superfund site in 1989. Learn more about Camp Lejeune water contamination and some of the options available to those who have suffered damages.
History of Camp Lejeune Toxic Water Contamination
Some scientists refer to Camp Lejeune as the worst public drinking water pollution event in U.S. history.
Founded in 1941 on the Atlantic coast, Camp Lejeune was one of the Marine Corps’ largest and busiest bases. Unfortunately, environmental leadership lagged, and camp leadership did everything from dumping oil and industrial wastewater into storm drains to burying potentially radioactive materials. For decades, a dry-cleaning business dumped chemicals—including tetrachloroethylene (PCE), a carcinogen—down drains, where the toxic chemicals seeped into the groundwater.
The water sources were found to contain high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), benzene, vinyl chloride and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs). VOCs are a group of chemical solvents and fuels that evaporate easily, such as tetrachloroethylene and trichloroethylene. Benzene is a colorless liquid with a sweet odor that is used industrially to manufacture multiple products including plastics, rubber products, lubricants and pesticides. Vinyl chloride is a colorless gas at room temperature that becomes liquid when stored at high pressure or low temperatures. It is used to manufacture PVC. PFAs are toxic, fluorinated chemicals that do not occur naturally but are man-made chemicals with widespread use.
In 1980, military chemists began testing the drinking water at Camp Lejeune, detecting organic compounds, or solvents, for the first time. But the Marines report that they didn’t receive the results of these tests until 1982. For years, chemists sounded the alarm, to no avail—and in the meantime, thousands of Marines, their spouses, and their children were drinking, cooking, and bathing with this water. Eventually, solvent levels were revealed to be up to 280 times higher than what the EPA considers safe.
In 1989, the fuel depot at Camp Lejeune was finally shut down, years after the first reports of fuel tanks leaking hazardous material into the surrounding soil.
Effects of Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
Those who were exposed to water contamination at Camp Lejeune developed diseases such as leukemia, certain types of cancers, and Parkinson’s disease, a neurological condition, and higher rates of miscarriages and birth defects for women who were exposed. Veterans and their loved ones who lived at Camp Lejeune during certain years and later developed these diseases may be eligible for disability compensation.
FAQs About Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune
During what years was the water supply contaminated at Camp Lejeune?
The EPA estimates that the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune endured from about 1953 to 1987.
What legislation is intended to compensate for Camp Lejeune contaminated water diseases?
The Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022 bill provides benefits to veterans who have suffered injuries or illnesses due to chemical exposure while in military service. Camp Lejeune residents may be eligible for compensation if they “resided, worked, or [were] otherwise exposed (including in utero exposure)” to water at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between 1953 and 1987. Victims exposed to Camp Lejeune water will have two years to file a claim for compensation. Victims are still eligible for benefits even if they’ve already received health benefits from the VA.
How to file a claim for Camp Lejeune water contamination?
If you or a loved one has developed an illness after exposure to Camp Lejeune toxic water, you may have a viable legal claim. Jim Ferraro of The Ferraro Law Firm has decades of experience in litigating toxic tort cases, and can help you build your case, file your complaint, and proceed toward a trial or settlement.
What caused Camp Lejeune water contamination?
The Camp Lejeune water contamination came from multiple places: toxic dry-cleaning chemicals being dumped down drains, fuel tanks leaking hazardous fuel into the soil, and other sources of improper disposal of hazardous materials. Each has a risk of cancer your loved one may face.
How can an attorney help with my Camp Lejeune water contamination case?
Medical benefits apply not only to veterans but also to family members who lived on base for 30 cumulative days during the contamination window. If your claim has been denied, we can prepare your appeal and may be able to take it before a VA judge.
How do I know if I qualify for compensation for my injuries at Camp Lejeune?
Some of the cancers and other diseases associated with Camp Lejeune water contamination include:
- Cardiac defect
- End stage renal disease
- Kidney disease
- Oral cleft defect
- Soft tissue sarcoma
- Aplastic anemia
- Bladder cancer
- Breast cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Female infertility
- Hepatic steatosis (fatty liver disease)
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Lung cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Neurobehavioral effects
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
- Renal toxicity
This is not an exhaustive list and there are many other injuries and diseases potentially associated with Camp Lejeune water contamination. There are many adverse health effects one may experience from toxic exposure to harmful chemicals.
If you or a loved one has developed one of these diseases after spending 30 days or more at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987, you may be entitled to compensation.
About the Camp LeJeune Water Contamination Lawsuit
Hiring a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Attorney
It’s important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to evaluate the strength of your claim. At The Ferraro Law Firm, we have extensive experience in a broad variety of injury cases, including chemical exposure and environmental injury.
Indeed, what sets The Ferraro Law Firm apart from other personal injury firms is Jim Ferraro’s unique experience with toxic torts—including taking on corporate giant DuPont all the way to the Florida Supreme Court. Jim successfully recovered damages on behalf of Johnny Castillo, who was born with no eyes after his mother walked past a U-Pick farm where Benlate had been sprayed. After a decade-long legal battle, the Castillos were awarded $7 million. And as a result of this life-changing experience, Jim Ferraro has dedicated his career to advocating for changes in the legal system to protect against dangerous, defective chemicals and other products.
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