In a fight stemming over 50 years, the House recently passed a bill providing recovery options for military members stationed at a North Carolina Marine base. Camp Lejeune, located in Jacksonville, North Carolina, has operated as a military training facility since 1941. An EPA investigation into the base’s water supply in the 1980s revealed astonishing levels of contamination that lasted for over 30 years. Today, some former residents and employees are dealing with major health consequences from the tainted water and are seeking justice.
The Marine Corps discovered volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in water sourced from three of the eight treatment plants on site. VOCs can refer to natural substances, but typically this phrase is used to describe industrial solvents. For example, paint thinners, fuels, and dry-cleaning agents.
The CDC conducted a modeling analysis to determine where and when areas of the based received the toxic drinking water. The results indicated a high level of VOCs existed in drinking water between roughly August 1953 and January of 1985.
In 1985, the most contaminated wells were identified and shut down. The CDC identified several sources of contamination, including leaking underground storage, waste disposal sites, and especially an off-base dry-cleaner which was disposing of harmful chemicals into the water supply. The water contained hazardous levels of:
- Tetrachloroethylene (PCE)
- Trichloroethylene (TCE)
- Vinyl chloride (VC)
- Dichloroethylene (DCE)
These chemicals are all linked to higher risk of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and pregnancy complications. Health officials estimate the more than 1 million people may have been exposed to the contaminated drinking water.
While the short- and long-term effects of exposure continue to be investigated, there exists clear evidence that those affected have an increased risk for certain health conditions. The contaminants put children and adults at risk for immune system disorders and certain cancers, such as liver cancer. Pregnant women had a high risk of their children having birth defects, heart problems, and immune system disorders.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2021 allows certain individuals impacted by the contamination to sue the US government for damages. The bill has opened the door for lawsuits because it prohibits the government from asserting any immunity. Initially, the Act did not pass in the Senate. However, the bill was passed on August 2nd, 2022 as part of a larger piece of legislation called the “Honoring our PACT Act”.
Do I Qualify?
To pursue a case, the claimant must meet have resided, worked, or was otherwise exposed to the water (including in utero exposure) for at least 30 days from August 1953 – December 1987. You must provide evidence that the exposure to Camp Lejeune’s water supply caused harm. And, most importantly, you must file your case in the next 2 years.
If you believe you may qualify for a lawsuit, but aren’t sure, please contact our office for more information. Our intake specialist may request some documentation from you and determine whether your case can be passed to an attorney.