For decades individuals and families living in and around Camp Lejeune in North Carolina unknowingly used contaminated water that had the potential to cause a wide range of illnesses. The period of contamination traces back to the early 1950s through the 1980s.
The estimated number of people living or working in the area during this time is close to or over one million. The water contamination affected not only those working at the base but their families living there and others in neighboring areas that lived and worked over any significant time and came in contact with the water.
For decades victims and advocates have fought for the rights of victims suffering from illness due to contaminated waters in this area. In 2021 the government passed legislation allowing Camp Lejeune water contamination victims to seek compensation for their injuries and illnesses resulting from exposure through a lawsuit.
If you or a family member was potentially affected by the Camp Lejeune contaminated water, you might wonder what caused the contamination and who can pursue compensation under the act with the help of a Camp Lejeune Water Contaimination Lawyer.
What Are the Contaminants Found in the Water in and Near Camp Lejeune?
During the contamination period, many main water plants were primarily responsible for supplying the water to Marine Corps Base Camp LeJeune. However, the ones that appear to have contamination issues were the Tarawa Terrace, Holcomb Boulevard, and Hadnot Point. Testing of the water found various contaminants and different sources that created or allowed the contaminants to seep into the water systems.
Although several contaminants could have made their way into the water supply during this time, the most concerning involved VOCs: volatile organic compounds. The effects of VOCs vary depending on the compound and the level of exposure and can range from minor irritations and discomfort to life-threatening illnesses and conditions.
In addition, some VOCs have cancer-causing properties, and some research links the compounds to various diseases. For example, the two VOCs in the Camp Lejeune water sources most concerning and likely to cause debilitating effects on those exposed are PCE and TCE.
What Is PCE?
Also known as tetrachloroethylene, PCE is a common compound used in dry cleaning products and services. PCE can cause short-term health issues that affect the body, from minor irritation to drastic changes in mood, behavior, and overall well-being. The long-term exposure to PCE, however, can result in significant risks to your health, including certain types of cancer and illness to vital organs such as the liver and kidneys.
What Is TCE?
TCE, short for trichloroethylene, is a chemical compound known for its cancer-causing properties. It is a substance commonly used by the military and linked to illnesses that developed in and near military bases. Cancers from long-term exposure to TCE include kidney, liver, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Who Contaminated the Water in Camp Lejeune?
The source of contamination is long disputed and discussed. Research and testing led to various sources of contamination of the water in the Camp Lejeune area. Investigation into the cause of the water contamination revealed that each water plant had contaminated water seep into their systems differently.
For example, the water contamination at the Tarawa Terrace water plant that caused the most impacts and hazards to the system stemmed from a dry cleaning company that did business in the area beginning in the early 1950s. The dry cleaner improperly disposed of hazardous chemicals used in their business operations for decades, seeping into the groundwater and, subsequently, the water system.
At Hadnot Point, reports revealed that the cause of the contaminated water was more widespread. Unlike Tarawa Terrace, which was the result of mostly one entity’s actions, the contamination at Hadnot Point involved many different players and wrongdoers that caused chemicals and hazardous substances to contaminate the water system used by those in and near Camp Lejeune.
Some sources believed to have caused contamination to the water passing through this plant included industrial spills, leaks from storage facilities, waste disposal services, another dry cleaner on base, and the base garbage dump. The contamination of the water at the Holcombe Boulevard water plant appears to have occurred indirectly in that the water supplied to this water plant came from the contaminated water of Hadnot Point.
Lack of Testing Delayed Action and Caused Years of Harm
Sadly, the water contamination in and around Camp Lejeune went on for far too long. Decades passed before any testing revealed the hazardous compounds in the water, and it took several years more for the water plants to shut down. This delay in testing and action caused thousands of people and families to become exposed to the contaminated water.
The potential effects of the Camp Lejeune water contamination are unfathomable and one of the country’s most potentially devastating water contamination incidents.
From 1953 to 1987, water contamination in and around neighboring areas of Camp Lejeune occurred, with carcinogenic chemicals and compounds known to result in illness in humans. Service men and women, their families, and those working in the area were exposed every time they used or drank the water from these contaminated water plants.
Who is Most at Risk of Developing Illness from the Contamination?
Anyone who worked, lived, or was present on base and in the designated surrounding areas during the contamination period was at risk of injury and illness from exposure to that water. PCE and TCE can cause various medical conditions and problems for individuals who consume or become exposed to the chemical. Water is a prominent aspect of daily life, every person in the area that drank, bathed, cooked with, or used contaminated water in any way is potentially at risk of developing an illness.
Under the Camp Lejeune Justice act, one of the eligibility requirements to file suit for the harm stemming from the water contamination is that an individual must show they resided, worked, or suffered exposure on the base in some other manner for a minimum of 30 days.
Individuals that could suffer harm from the Camp Lejeune water contamination include:
- Veterans or active military that served or worked on the base
- Family of a military member that lived on base, including babies in the womb
- Civilian members of the community, whether living on base or working on base in the eligible area
What Injuries and Illnesses Can Occur From the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination?
Several illnesses and medical conditions could occur due to prolonged exposure to PCE, TCE, and other unknown contaminants in the Camp Lejeune water system. By enacting the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, the government does not explicitly delineate the diseases that are eligible for compensation.
However, prior laws related to the water contamination at Camp Lejeune can give victims some insight into some conditions that may qualify to allow suit against the government. If you believe you have suffered harm from your past exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, speak with an attorney to discuss your legal options, even if your illness is not one of those mentioned below.
Common illnesses that could have occurred because of the Camp Lejeune water contamination include:
- Kidney Cancer
- Liver Cancer
- Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
- Adult Leukemia
- Multiple Myeloma
- Aplastic Anemia
- Parkinson’s disease
- Bladder cancer
Can a Victim of the Contamination Get Compensation?
The Camp Lejeune Act allows an eligible victim or family of a victim of Camp Lejeune water contamination to file suit against the government for the losses associated with their injuries arising from exposure. To fight for the compensation of your damages, you will need to prove your injuries, how the injuries affected your life, and how the contaminated water contributed to your illness or exacerbated your risk of developing certain illnesses or conditions.
Damages that may be available to you in a Camp Lejeune water contamination case:
- Medical losses
- Income losses
- Pain and suffering
- Wrongful death compensation
What if You Believe Your Loved One Died Due to Water Contamination Related Illness From Camp Lejeune?
Since many years have passed since the initial water contamination at Camp Lejeune, many victims have likely passed away due to illnesses and conditions caused by exposure at the base. If you are a family member that developed an illness and they were at Camp Lejeune during the period defined by the statute, you may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of your loved one. To file suit, you must show that your loved one meets the eligibility requirements and that their death resulted from their exposure to water contamination on or near the base.
What Is the Camp Lejeune Justice Act?
This federal act passed by Congress in 2022 gives victims of the Camp Lejeune water contamination crisis a right to seek compensation for any harm sustained from exposure while at Camp Lejeune. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act requires that for an individual to file suit, they prove they lived or worked a minimum of 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act versus The Camp Lejeune Families Act
Prior legislation allowed potential Camp Lejeune water contamination victims to seek VA benefits to cover medical costs for specific conditions delineated by the act. Unlike the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, the victims seeking compensation under the Camp Lejeune Family Act could only seek healthcare cost reimbursements.
Furthermore, seeking compensation through the VA under this act proved problematic, with only a small portion of claims ever approved and the majority denied. The newly passed Camp Lejeune Justice Act gives victims and families of wrongful death victims the chance to seek monetary compensation for a wide range of losses and expenses that go far beyond medical costs.
Should You Hire a Lawyer if You Believe you are a Victim of the Contamination of Camp Lejeune?
Due to the recent enactment into law of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, the lawsuits against the government are quickly mounting. Proving your eligibility under the act and the causation of your harm linked to the contaminated water is a complex process. The exposure happened decades ago, requiring experts and professionals’ testimony to prove your illness arose from the exposure.
A Camp Lejeune water contamination attorney can help guide you through this challenging process. Going up against the government is no easy task, but with the help of an experienced attorney, you can feel at ease knowing your case is in the right hands. There is too much on the line for you to risk without an attorney representing your interests in a Camp Lejeune water contamination case.
Is There a Time Limit for Taking Legal Action for the Camp LeJeune Water Contamination?
There is a strict timeframe in which all victims must file a lawsuit against the government related to the Camp Lejeune water contamination. The act gives victims or families filing on behalf of a victim only two years from the enactment of the bill to initiate legal proceedings. The president signed the Camp Lejeune Act into law on August 10, 2022, giving most victims only until August 10, 2024, to file suit for compensation. This limitation applies to claims for injury and wrongful death from the water contamination.
If you or a loved one are a Camp Lejeune water contamination victim, contact an attorney for a free case consultation to discuss your legal options.