Were You Affected by the Contaminated Water at Camp Lejeune?

Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base in North Carolina, had one of the worst cases of water contamination that has been seen in the United States. The water also affected the nearby Marine air station, New River. Many retired military personnel live here in Florida, and since Camp Lejeune was a busy base during the time of contamination, many of these resident veterans, their families, and civilian personnel who worked on the base may be able to seek damages for harm caused by contamination at Camp Lejeune. 

What went wrong at Camp Lejeune

The contamination at Camp Lejeune was caused by multiple sources. Not all the wells on the base were contaminated, but the contaminated well water was sent to a water treatment plant where it was mingled with other wells, thus contaminating the entire water source. The water in two of the wells contained trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), benzene, vinyl chloride, and other volatile organic compounds (VOC). One of the sources was a dry cleaner outside the base which opened in 1953 and dumped wastewater laced with PCE, a known carcinogen. PCE is also used in other solvents that may have been used on the base. Another major contamination source was underground storage tanks that leaked 1,500 gallons of fuel every month. 

Some of these contaminated conditions were known and were not addressed, were not reported as required, and when discovered by the public, were minimized as “trace.” Yet the levels of these VOCs were hundreds of times the standard safety level. The contaminated wells and treatment plant were finally closed between 1984 and 1987. 

The contaminated water system supplied water for military family housing, barracks for unmarried military personnel, and all staff and contractors working on the base. Thousands of families and young soldiers may have been contaminated by the water.

What the VA says

The VA recognizes Camp Lejeune contamination for disability benefits under the following criteria:

  • You served at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River for at least 30 cumulative days from August 1953 through December 1987, and
  • You didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge when you separated from the military

In addition, you must have a diagnosis of one or more of these presumptive conditions:

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

Healthcare benefits would cover veterans and their family members, but compensation would only cover veterans. The VA says nothing about civilians who worked on the base. The VA will pay veterans and their families for out-of-pocket medical expenses for the following:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Female infertility
  • Hepatic steatosis
  • Kidney cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Lung cancer
  • Miscarriage
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Neurobehavioral effects
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Renal toxicity
  • Scleroderma 

What the Camp Lejeune Justice Act says

Given the egregious negligence on the part of the Marine Corps running the camp during the time of contamination, it became clear that more had to be done for the victims of this severe contamination than merely reimbursing the injured for their out-of-pocket health expenses. 

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act was signed into law in August of 2022, allowing “certain individuals to sue and recover damages for harm from exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.” This includes people who were exposed to the contaminated water for at least 30 days. The Justice Act further prohibits the U.S. government from asserting specified immunity from litigation in response to a lawsuit.

 What does this mean?

This law is good news for anyone who was exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune or the New River base between 1953 and 1987. If you experience health issues that you believe were caused by this contamination, you may be able to receive compensation beyond the very limited compensation the VA offers. 

More and more health conditions are being connected to these VOCs every year, so even if you do not have any of the conditions listed, your health condition may be connected to your exposure to the contaminated water. 

As a Florida Personal Injury Lawyer committed to helping people who have been injured due to the negligence of others, I hunt for every possible opportunity to help you receive the compensation you need. Call me today at (954) 448-7288 so I can get started right away to help you.

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