Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuits Benefit Veterans

camp lejeune

Camp Lejeune has made headlines this summer as the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, where military members, their families, and workers were “potentially exposed to drinking water contaminated with industrial solvents, benzene, and other chemicals” for decades. For the first time, the victims of Camp Lejeune may file suit to seek compensation for the harm caused by the exposure to contaminated drinking water.

Where is Camp Lejeune?

Camp Lejeune is a military training facility located in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and spans 246 square miles. From the mid-1950s through the 1980s, there were over 1 million people who worked and lived at the camp. Marines, military families, and civilian staff all were possibly exposed to contaminated drinking water for decades.

What Contaminants Were Found in Camp Lejeune?

Four dangerous water contaminants were detected at the site in the groundwater. These dangerous chemicals include Trichlorethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), benzene, and vinyl chloride. All of these chemicals are harmful to humans, with PCE being likely carcinogenic.

What are the Health Effects of the Four Contaminants?

Benzene, a colorless liquid that is typically used or industrial purposes—specifically, to make chemicals—has been linked to myeloma and miscarriages.

Vinyl Chloride is used in manufacturing to produce PC pipes and packing materials. According to various studies, exposure to this contaminant has been linked to liver cirrhosis, cancer, among other health issues.

TCE and PCE are considered volatile organic compounds, which are used to evaporate easily as solvents and fuels. They are commonly used to clean machinery. Serious health hazards from exposure to these chemicals include birth defects and cancer.

A list of health effects that may occur as a result of exposure, including in-utero exposure, to any one of these four chemicals includes the following:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Liver cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Other diseases named in Camp Lejeune lawsuits include the following:

  • Cardiac defect
  • Fatty liver disease (hepatic steatosis)
  • Female infertility
  • Miscarriage
  • Neurobehavioral effects
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Renal toxicity
  • Scleroderma

How Did Camp Lejeune’s Water Become Contaminated?

There are multiple water treatment plans at Camp Lejeune. The contamination issue arose when dangerous amounts of chemicals were found in the water treatment plants. Researchers determined that the amount of chemicals  made the drinking water unfit for human consumption. The Centers for Disease Control’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) reported that in 1982, two of the eight water treatments on base were found to contain specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Drinking water from the Tarawa Terrace water treatment plant, which supplied water to the Tarawa Terrace housing units, was primarily contaminated by PCE (perchloroethylene or tetrachloroethylene).

Additionally, according to ATSDR, the Hadnot Point water treatment plan was also contaminated. The primary contaminants in the second treatment plan included TCE (trichloroethylene), PCE (perchloroethylene or tetrachloroethylene), vinyl chloride, and benzene.

Despite these findings, the water at Camp Lejeune has been regularly tested and has been considered “safe to drink” since March 1987.

Who Can File a Camp Lejeune Claim Against the U.S. Government?

North Carolina is one of the few states that impose a statute of repose on polluters. The statute of repose prevents potential plaintiffs from filing a lawsuit against a defendant-polluter if more than 10 years have passed since the contaminating event. However, on June 22, 2022, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act 2022 was passed by the U.S. Senate.

The new federal bill supersedes North Carolina’s statute of repose, and allows veterans, their families, and workers who lived and worked at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between 1953 and 1987 to file a claim for monetary compensation from the United States government. The new law, practically, extended the deadline for filing such claims in North Carolina courts. The text of the H.R.6482 bill states the following:

“In General.—An individual, including a veteran (as defined in section 101 of title 38, United States Code), or the legal representative of such an individual, who resided, worked, or was otherwise exposed (including in utero exposure) for not less than 30 days during the period beginning on August 1, 1953, and ending on December 31, 1987, to water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, that was supplied by, or on behalf of, the United States may bring an action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina to obtain appropriate relief for harm that was caused by exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune.”

Like other personal injury lawsuits, the burden of proof rests on the plaintiff’s shoulders. Therefore, the party filing the lawsuit must show one or more casual relationships between the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune and their medical condition. In other words, the plaintiff must show that the contaminated water at Campe Lejeune caused the medical harm and damages.

Can I Recover Compensation Without Filing a Lawsuit?

According to the U.S. Department for Veteran Affairs, veterans who were exposed to the contaminated water at the Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune between the years of 1953-1987 may file a claim to receive veterans’ disability compensation. To be eligible for disability benefits relating to exposure to contaminants at the Camp Lejeune base, the following criteria must be met:

  1. Lived or worked at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987 – for at least 30 consecutive days, and
  2. Diagnosed with a health condition associated with Camp Lejeune’s water toxins.

Veterans must be diagnosed with one of the following presumptive conditions:

  • Adult leukemia
  • Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Bladder cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Parkinson’s disease

If a veteran is receiving disability benefits and files a lawsuit against the U.S. government for compensation related to the injuries that were sustained because of the contaminated drinking water, the amount of compensation a veteran may receive in a lawsuit may be reduced according to the amount of disability an individual has been receiving.

While veterans can receive health benefits and compensation for adverse health effects from which they have suffered, their family members who were also exposed may receive health coverage, but not additional compensation. Additionally, claims filed with Veterans Affairs can take up to four months to reach a determination.

Can I File a Lawsuit On Behalf of My Family Member?

Yes, a family member can file a lawsuit on behalf of a deceased veteran. Additionally, a family member can also apply for additional benefits to help pay for funeral and burial expenses through the Department of Veteran Affairs.

If a loved one of a veteran has passed away because of a health condition that was caused by contaminated drinking water, the veteran may also file a lawsuit to obtain compensation for their loss.

How Do I Find a Camp Lejeune Lawyer to Represent Me?

If you have suffered as a result of contaminated drinking water from Camp Lejeune, you should seek representation from an experienced attorney with a winning track record. Contact us today for more information.