The contaminated water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, NC, and Marine Corps Air Station New River, NC, has been described by scientists as the worst in American history. Studies show that the Camp Lejeune water contamination began in 1953 and continued through 1987. Meanwhile, countless soldiers, their families, and civilian workers drank, cooked with, and bathed in water contaminated with toxic chemicals at levels ranging from 240-3,400 times higher than permitted by today’s safety standards. It is estimated that up to one million people were affected.
They were exposed to a toxic brew of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), leading to a host of deadly and catastrophic diseases and disabilities. Decades later, on June 16, 2022, the Senate passed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act Bill of 2022. This legislation grants the surviving victims of this water contamination exposure the right to sue for monetary compensation for the extensive damage they have suffered.
If you or a loved one served, lived, or worked at Camp Lejeune or MCAS and became ill, you have rights. Learn about Camp Lejeune water lawsuits and legal lending that can provide the assistance you need.
What Caused Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
The above explains where matters stand now, but how did we get here? What happened at Camp Lejeune? What chemicals were in the water at Camp Lejeune, and what damage did they cause? And is the Camp Lejeune water safe now? Let’s explore the answers to these questions and more.
There were a number of actions that caused the Camp Lejeune water contamination. Each related to wildly inappropriate disposal of toxic substances that allowed them to contaminate the surrounding soil and groundwater.
While regulations for handling toxic waste were spotty when the contamination began in the 1950s, subsequent actions were just as damaging. When the first testing in 1980 determined the “water highly contaminated,” the results were buried, and no action was taken for years despite repeated warnings that grew in urgency and volume. The extraordinary Camp Lejeune water contamination was made worse by repeated failures to act.
The reckless dumping of toxic waste on and around the property of Camp Lejeune began in the 1950s and continued until the 1980s. One egregious culprit was ABC Cleaners, the go-to dry cleaner for the base personnel. Dry cleaners use tetrachloroethylene (PCE), a powerful chemical solvent, on a daily basis. According to a deposition, ABC One-Hour Cleaners was going through two to three 55-gallon drums of solvent every month.
Recognized as the lowest price in town, the company helped keep its overhead low by using the toxic sludge from cleaning operations to fill in the potholes in its parking lot, while throwing the rest into the drain. The PCE leached into the surrounding soils and the water table, poisoning not just Camp Lejeune, but also the next-door middle school, Tarawa Terrace II, and the New River that coils around the marine base.
On-Base Sources of Contamination
While much attention has been focused on the actions of ABC One-Hour Cleaners, this is not the sole source of the disastrous Camp Lejeune water contamination. There were several on-base spills of toxic chemicals and insecure burials of toxic waste in drums that developed leaks over the years. One colorful example of reckless disposal of hazardous waste came to light in 1980.
In the fall of 1980, a contractor was hired to build a parking lot on an empty field. As he worked grading the field, his bulldozer unearthed dog carcasses and 518 “beta buttons” laced with strontium-90, all labeled “Radioactive Poison.” It turns out the new parking lot was being built on the former Naval Research Laboratory dump site and its incinerator.
In addition to un-marked radioactive beagles buried in soil on base, there are numerous other sites contributing to the water contamination at Camp Lejeune. According to the National Library of Medicine, these include “an industrial area, a drum dump, a transformer storage lot, an industrial fly-ash dump, an open storage pit, a former fire training area, a site of a former on-base dry cleaner, a liquid-disposal area, a former burn dump, a fuel-tank sludge area, and the site of the original base dump.”
What Chemicals Were in the Water at Camp Lejeune?
In 2014, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) published their findings on the Camp Lejeune water contamination. The ATSDR reports finding trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), vinyl chloride (VC), and benzene contaminating the drinking water sources. Each of these highly toxic chemicals is entirely colorless. TCE is used as a degreasing solvent for metal parts and for making refrigerants and other hydrofluorocarbons. PCE is used in dry cleaning to break down and remove oils. VC is a flammable gas used to make PVC pipes, wire coatings, and plastic kitchenware. TCE and PCE degrade in water to form VC. Benzene is also highly flammable and is used to make lubricants, detergents, dyes, pesticides, and rubbers. It is also used to make other chemicals that are in turn used to make resins, plastics, and nylon fibers.
The ATSDR found that “past exposures from the 1950s through February 1985 to trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), vinyl chloride, and other contaminants in the drinking water at the Camp Lejeune likely increased the risk of cancers (kidney, multiple myeloma, leukemias, and others), adverse birth outcomes, and other adverse health effects of residents (including infants and children), civilian workers, Marines, and Naval personnel at Camp Lejeune.”
What Were the Effects of the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination?
The effects of the Camp Lejeune water contamination have been disastrous. The service members, their families, and the civilian workers who were exposed to the contaminated drinking water are at risk for a host of catastrophic effects including lung cancer, kidney cancer, breast cancer, bladder cancer, leukemia, Parkinson’s disease, scleroderma, kidney disease, and liver disease. In addition, a variety of adverse birth outcomes have resulted, including spontaneous abortions, spina bifida, a variety of tragic congenital disabilities, and dangerously premature births.
The Department of Veteran Affairs has established a rule of presumptive service-connected diseases associated with the Camp Lejeune water contamination. This means that there is no legal requirement to prove the connection between the specified disease and the contamination exposure to conclude causality. The causal link is presumed. Regarding the Camp Lejeune water contamination, the rule covers veterans, former reservists, and former National Guard members who were stationed at Camp Lejeune, served, or resided there for a minimum of 30 days, consecutively or non-consecutively. The eight diseases listed as presumed to be caused by the time served at Camp Lejeune are:
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Adult leukemia (i.e. leukemia developed after qualifying exposure at Camp Lejeune)
- Multiple myeloma
- Parkinson’s disease
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
- Bladder cancer
A complete list of all the damaging effects of the water contamination at Camp Lejeune will never be known.
What Are the Neurobehavioral Effects of Camp Lejeune?
In addition to the deadly diseases, numerous neurobehavioral effects have been linked to the Camp Lejeune water contamination. “Neurobehavioral effects” refer to damage done to the way the nervous system responds and leads to disordered behaviors.
The neurobehavioral effects associated with the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune include headaches, sensory disturbances, confusion, tension, depression, difficulty concentrating, lack of muscular coordination, visuomotor coordination, cognitive impairment, as well as various learning and behavioral disorders.
Is Camp Lejeune Water Safe Now?
Despite the extraordinary Camp Lejeune water contamination and the initial failure to act on the reported damage, the drinking water has been reported safe since 1987. Camp Lejeune is now in compliance with comprehensive state and federal laws and regulations that govern safe drinking water. In 1989, the EPA added Camp Lejeune to the Superfund National Priorities List, making it a priority for cleanup funding and enforcement.
What Protection Exists for Victims of Camp Lejeune Water Contamination?
On June 16, 2022, the U.S. Senate passed The Camp Lejeune Justice Act Bill of 2022. This legislation entitles veterans, their families, and civilian workers exposed to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune or Marine Corps Air Station New River, NC, to sue for compensation for the damage they have suffered. This legislation supersedes the legal technicalities like the North Carolina statute of repose that prevented claimants from receiving compensation.
Those who have been exposed to the Camp Lejeune water contamination for 30 days or more between August 1953 and December 1987 are now entitled to sue for compensation.
How Tribeca Lawsuit Loans Can Help
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Find out if Tribeca Lawsuit Loans can help you fund your life while you pursue your Camp Lejeune water contamination case! Our application is quick and simple — and it costs you nothing to learn what we can do for you. Visit our Apply Now page, or give us a call at (866) 388-2288. We will be honored to aid you in your fight for justice!