For nearly 25 years, between 1953 and 1987, members of the Marine Corps stationed at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and nearby residents were exposed to toxic contaminants in the water supply. That was a long time ago, but the damage to the health of the service members and affected families continues to this day.
If you were exposed to the toxic effects of the drinking water on base, you might be entitled to some compensation, based on the new Honoring Our PACT Act, signed by President Biden on August 10, 2022.
The damage you suffered cannot be undone and health issues cannot be reversed, but now you may be eligible to receive compensation. Payout, however, is not automatic. A Camp Lejeune claims attorney will help you avoid missing out on any benefits you are authorized.
Now is the time to contact HawkLaw for help with the complicated claims process. To request a free consultation,* call us at 888-HAWKLAW.
Is Camp Lejeune Water Safe Now?
Although the Camp Lejeune water contamination issue, first identified in 1982, is certainly a blot on the record of the U.S. military, the major problems associated with high concentrations of toxic chemicals in the water supply were rectified by 1987.
Today, the base water supply is considered safe, storage tanks of hazardous materials no longer exist, and there is no evidence that new toxic water issues will be detected. Public health officials continue to monitor ongoing testing and cleanup efforts, and Camp Lejeune and the United States Marine Corps is dedicated to keeping the base water supply safe in the future.
How Long Did it Take to Clean Water at Camp Lejeune?
The environmental disaster that occurred at the U.S. Marine Corps base was unprecedented. According to estimates by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, more than one million people may have been exposed to contaminated water from Camp Lejeune.
Robust decontamination began immediately after the toxins were discovered in 1982, Within five years, the military base was deemed safe. The U.S. government wants to prevent future health problems, but the truth is that cleanup will continue for years.
Is U.S. Military Making Sure Camp Lejeune’s Water Does Not Get Recontaminated?
In 1989, the military base was added to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) national priorities list, with protocols and funding in place to continue cleanup efforts far into the future. Designated a Superfund site, a joint review is conducted every five years by the Navy, EPA, and North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. Future cleanup will focus removing specific compounds from each area surrounding Camp Lejeune. The next review is scheduled for 2025.
How Did the Water at Camp Lejeune Become Contaminated?
Two separate water treatment plants, of a total of eight on the base, were responsible for the major contamination detected at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. However, unduly high levels of toxic compounds were also found in the drinking water, and the chemicals leached into the surrounding soils and groundwater near the base.
Hadnot Point Water Treatment Plant
According to ATSDR, the Hadnot Point contamination was caused primarily by TCE. However, additional contaminants in the drinking water included PCE, benzene, vinyl chloride, and other pollutants caused by the degradation of the toxic chemicals. Several different practices across the base and surrounding areas contaminated the drinking water, including leaking underground storage tanks, industrial spills in the surrounding area, and waste disposal sites. The Hadnot Point water systems served barracks and recreational areas as well as the on-base hospital and schools.
Tarawa Terrace Water Treatment Plant
An off-base dry-cleaning company located was identified as the source of the PCE that poisoned the water at the Tarawa Terrace Water Treatment Plant. The company’s disposal practice for the dry-cleaning liquid was inadequate, and ATSDR estimated that PCE concentrations exceeded allowable levels in drinking water for 346 months between 1957 and 1987. Approximately 6,200 people were once residents of the Tarawa Terrace community.
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Water Contamination?
More than 70 different contaminants were identified in Camp Lejeune’s water supply and treatment facilities and seeped into surrounding groundwater. Two of the substances, trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene or perchloroethylene (PCE), are considered volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and constitute a major concern for human health.
VOCs include a long list of chemicals found both indoors and in the outside atmosphere that can have potentially harmful effects on human health. The level of toxicity varies greatly, depending on the level and the time frame of exposure. The severity of side effects depends on specific circumstances. The most common complaints are eye, nose, and throat irritation, nausea and vomiting, headaches, dizziness, and symptoms of asthma. Long-term exposure, however, can lead to cancer and damage to liver, kidneys, and central nervous system.
TCE is a volatile organic compound used for various industrial and chemical processes. Chronic TCE symptoms include ongoing sleep disturbances and digestive problems, leading to decreased liver function or kidney disease, including kidney or liver cancer, heart issues, prostate cancer, fetal abnormalities, or other reproductive health issues.
PCE is a solvent often used at dry cleaners. When applied to certain materials, it functions as a degreaser. Long-term exposure to PCE may contribute to central nervous system damage as well as cognitive decline, and cancers including leukemia. Also, reproductive issues and birth defects have been attributed to PCE exposure.
Benzene, a known carcinogen used primarily for industrial processes, was initially detected in Camp Lejeune’s water wells. It is still unknown how many people might have been affected. Long-term exposure to the petroleum-based product can cause anemia and respiratory illness, immune system or central nervous system damage, and is associated with blood disorders, leukemia, and other cancers.
Another pollutant detected in the water wells and through routine water treatment plant sampling was vinyl chloride, which is used to make PVC tubing and can occur from the breakdown of other VOCs. Health issues may include hormonal imbalance and reproductive issues, brain, liver, and lung cancer, a variety of malignant tumors, lymphoma and leukemia, and allergies and developmental problems in children.
Am I Eligible for Benefits Under the Honoring PACT Act?
In general, veterans who were stationed at Camp Lejeune from mid-1953 through 1987 have been authorized VA health care services for health problems tied to the contaminated water at the installation. However, it was only with the passage of the PACT Act earlier this year that those veterans and their families became able to sue the government and collect compensation.
The act allows anyone who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune for 30 or more days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, to sue the government and collect compensation, including payment for the wrongful death of a family member. That said, victims do not have forever to file a claim. To receive compensation, victims must file their claim before August 10, 2024.
In addition, the PACT Act expands VA health care benefits for service members exposed to toxic substances while on active duty and authorizes other changes that affect VA health care.
Veterans, reservists, and guardsmen who can document their service at Camp Lejeune during the years in question, received honorable discharges, and have been diagnosed with one or medical conditions that stem from contaminated water supplies, may also be eligible for disability benefits, according to a ruling by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Those specific illnesses and conditions include:
- Adult leukemia
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
Why Should I Hire a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawyer?
Working with a lawyer means that have an informed and knowledgeable advocate to help you collect the required evidence and documentation to support your claim.
HawkLaw will review your current situation and determine whether you have the basis for a claim. The final determination of claim validity rests with the Veterans Administration.
With a relatively short period to file a claim, having the resources a law firm offers is a huge advantage. Not only can we quickly confirm your eligibility based on your current health conditions, but we are also familiar with federal government requirements for the submission of supporting forms and information.
Our firm understands the need to present documentation of the health effects of toxic chemicals, and we can obtain environmental protection agency verification of the contaminated drinking water and volatile organic compounds that were contained in the groundwater on the base.
Act Now! You Have Less Than Two Years to File Your Camp Lejeune Lawsuit.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA), which only this year became a part of the Honoring Our PACT Act, was signed into law by President Joe Biden on August 10, 2022. It set a two-year deadline for filing from the date of signing.
Unfortunately, filing a suit can take a long time. First, you and your lawyers will need some time to gather the facts and get everything prepared for a successful claim. Because a lot of time has already passed, you may have to search for documents, check dates, build a timeline that matches the facts, and get needed statements from witnesses, medical authorities, and family members. Even though two years seems like a long time, meeting the deadline may be difficult.
In complex cases, it can take one to three years to reach a settlement or get a verdict. Having HawkLaw’s diligent lawyers on your team can help you have as speedy a resolution as possible. If you are considering filing a claim based on your own experience or the health conditions of a loved one, do not run the risk of having your claim denied because you lack legal knowledge and representation.
To request a free* consultation, call 888-HAWKLAW or complete the online contact form to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer at HawkLaw today.