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Toxic Exposure /

Camp Lejeune Lawsuit

Sept. 29, 2023

Fast-tracked elective payout for Camp Lejeune claims insufficient

The Marines, family members and civilian workers who worked or lived on the base, are desperate for the answers and resources they need to move forward with their lives. Until recently, their pleas for action have largely been ignored. Read more in this blog post from Joe Rice.

Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune is located in North Carolina. Countless service members, their families and civilians have lived and worked at the base. From Aug. 1953 – Dec. 1987, these people may have been exposed to toxic water. People who develop cancer, kidney disease and other health problems listed below may be eligible to file a Camp Lejeune lawsuit

What happened at Camp Lejeune?

From Aug. 1, 1953, to Dec. 31, 1987, toxic chemicals contaminated some of the water supply at the Camp Lejeune military base. The exposure was not discovered until 1980. The public was not notified of the contamination until 1997.

Timeline of contaminated water discovery at Camp Lejeune

  • October 1980: Contamination discovered. The U.S. Army Environmental Hygiene Agency sampled and tested water at Camp Lejeune. The chief of laboratory services wrote, “water is highly contaminated with … hydrocarbons.”
  • January, February and March 1981: Follow-up testing. In response to the March tests, the same chief wrote, “water highly contaminated with other chlorinated hydrocarbons (solvents)!”
  • August 1982: Independent testing. A contracted chemist concluded the contamination levels were, “important from a health standpoint.” Nine days later, another chemist noted that the chemicals in the water were known to “produce liver and kidney damage and central nervous system disturbances in humans.”
  • July 1984: Further independent testing. These tests sampled a well in the base’s Hadnot Point Industrial Area and found benzene levels 76 times higher than the maximum contaminant limit. 
  • November 1984: Information delay. The Marine Corps claims they did not receive the results of the July testing until November. 
  • November 1984 – February 1985: Wells shut down. The Marine Corps shut down ten water wells at Camp Lejeune, including the well tested in July 1984. According to the Marine Corps, all wells with known contamination were shut down by 1985.
  • December 1988: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) intervenes. The Navy requested that the ATSDR perform a health assessment at Camp Lejeune.
  • October 1989: Camp Lejeune placed on National Priorities List (NPL). This means it was earmarked for further investigation and possible cleanup by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • 1991: Health assessment. The ATSDR began a Public Health Assessment (PHA) of Camp Lejeune’s water contamination.
  • October 1994: Assessment completed. The ATSDR concluded its assessments and published an Initial Release of the PHA, which was not widely available.
  • August 1997: Assessment released to the public. The release detailed three public health issues identified at Camp Lejeune, including the high levels of dangerous chemicals in the drinking water. The release mentioned the chemicals trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and 1,2-dichloroethylene (DCE). Benzene, discovered in a well in 1984, was not mentioned.

Where was the contamination at Camp Lejeune?

Dangerous chemicals entered Camp Lejeune’s water system and were distributed across the base. This includes water used for drinking, cooking and showering in many of the housing units and workplaces. 

The base’s water distribution system is large. At the time of contamination, there were eight water treatment plants on base, pulling water from groundwater wells.

Three of the base’s plants used water with evidence of contamination.

  • The Tarawa Terrace water treatment plant provided drinking water to the Tarawa Terrace housing area. This plant was primarily contaminated by PCE in the groundwater. The contamination was traced to ABC One-Hour Cleaners, an off-base dry-cleaning firm that did not dispose of its toxic waste properly.
  • The Hadnot Point water treatment plant provided drinking water to the main portion of the base, including most of the barracks and workplaces. This plant was contaminated by TCE (trichloroethylene), PCE, benzene, DCE and vinyl chloride. The source of the Hadnot Point contamination was more varied. Multiple sources were identified, including leaking underground waste storage tanks, industrial spills and waste disposal sites.
  • The Holcomb Boulevard water treatment plant provided water to housing at Midway Park, Paradise Point, Berkeley Manor and Watkins Village. The Holcomb Boulevard system was not contaminated. However, it occasionally pulled water from the contaminated Hadnot Point plant. This happened from Jan. 27, 1985, to Feb. 7, 1985, and in various spring and summer months from 1972 to 1985.

Exposure to the chemicals found in these water systems can be very dangerous. The decades-long contamination of the Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point water systems eventually caused many illnesses.  

Health effects related to Camp Lejeune water exposure

Toxic water at Camp Lejeune has been traced to multiple sources, including a dry cleaning operation, multiple underground fuel storage tanks and other improper toxic chemical dumping.

According to the ATSDR the contaminated base wells contained the following volatile organic compounds (VOCs):

  • Benzene
  • 1,2-dichloroethylene (DCE)
  • Perchloroethylene (PCE)
  • Trichloroethylene (TCE)
  • Vinyl chloride
  • Other compounds

Unsafe levels of these toxins are linked to numerous diseases and other health problems. Health conditions associated with Camp Lejeune’s water contamination include:

Contact a toxic exposure attorney

If you or a loved one served, worked or lived at Camp Lejeune between Aug. 1, 1953 and Dec. 31, 1987 and developed severe health complications, a knowledgeable toxic exposure attorney can help you weigh your options for compensation. We are available at any time by email or you can call 866.855.9017 for more information.

Camp Lejeune water lawsuits

Veterans and family members who lived on base as well as civilians who came on the base for work may have been exposed to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.

Justice for people impacted by toxic water exposure at Camp Lejeune was difficult to come by for many years. In 2022, departmental watchdogs found the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) “prematurely” denied 17,200 disability benefit claims related to Camp Lejeune water contamination.

The Honoring Our Pact Act of 2022

The Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022 provides an overdue path to justice for Camp Lejeune victims. Previously, the VA and the Department of the Navy (DON) declined to cover most Camp Lejeune claims.

Now, Camp Lejeune victims are specifically covered by the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, which is included in the PACT Act. Filing a Camp Lejeune claim may provide injured and sick people with the justice and compensation they deserve.

The PACT Act set the statute of limitations for Camp Lejeune claims at two years from the date it was signed into law. Because of this legislation, the normal North Carolina statute of limitations for personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits does not apply. This means Camp Lejeune veterans and other exposed individuals only have until August 9, 2024 to file claims. Camp Lejeune claims may result in a settlement offer.

Once a claim is denied or if no response is received within 6 months of filing a claim form, a lawsuit can be filed in the Eastern District of North Carolina. Camp Lejeune lawsuits may result in a verdict or settlement offer.

2023 Camp Lejeune Lawsuit News

In September 2023, the Justice Department and DON announced a new “elective option” for Camp Lejeune victims. This option was released as a way to expedite claims and get veterans settlements quickly. However, some attorneys characterize this option as an insufficient payout for Camp Lejeune victims.

Eligibility for a Camp Lejeune lawsuit or VA claim

Thousands of individuals may be eligible to file Camp Lejeune claims. Our lawyers have experience representing victims and we can evaluate your case and seek justice on your behalf. The general starting criteria for filing a claim include:

  • Having lived or worked on the Camp Lejeune base between August 1953 and December 1987 
  • Having been present on base for at least 30 days in that window; and
  • Developing one of the qualifying conditions

Toxic exposure lawyers can help victims gather medical records, service records and other paperwork necessary to file a Camp Lejeune lawsuit or claim.

People looking to file a claim should be careful of Camp Lejeune scams before giving out personal information to anyone. 

Our history representing veterans

Motley Rice is proud to represent veterans and their families in litigation targeting preventable hazards that hurt U.S. troops and contractors. We have litigated matters involving:

  • Exposure to asbestos and other toxic materials
  • 3M earplugs and hearing loss
  • EFP roadside bombs allegedly manufactured with the help of certain banks accused of supporting terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Exposure to toxins released from burn pits at military facilities

Our law firm has the experience to file your claim, litigate your case, and negotiate for a Camp Lejeune settlement.

Read more on our work in support of veterans.

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