Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit

In 1982, toxic chemicals were found in the drinking water supplying U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

Between 1953 and 1987, nearly one million Marines (and their families) stationed at Camp Lejeune were exposed to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by drinking, bathing, cooking or using contaminated water. Thousands of marines and their families suffered tragic health effects and were routinely denied the chance to file lawsuits seeking fair compensation.

As of June 16, 2022, the House and the Senate passed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act to help compensate veterans and their families. The President has already advocated for its passage and is expected to sign the bill into law.

Once the law passes, Veterans and their families can finally move forward with a claim seeking the compensation they deserve. This new law would allow them to recover damages from exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987.

If you or a loved one were at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between the dates listed above, you may be eligible to file a claim. Contact The Rothenberg Law Firm LLP  for a free consultation to discuss your legal rights and learn how filing a Camp Lejeune water contamination claim can help you and your family.

What is Camp Lejeune?

Camp Lejeune, located south of Jacksonville, N.C., is a 156,000 acre military training facility in Onslow County. It’s also the military base for the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River. Built in 1942, Camp Lejeune trains and prepares service members for deployment and humanitarian missions abroad. It is a vital base to the Marines.

Who discovered the water contamination at Camp Lejeune?

The Environmental Protection Act, passed in 1970, required public water systems to routinely test for water quality. Like other military bases at that time, environmental stewardship there failed to properly test the water quality.

In 1982, Grainger Laboratories in Raleigh, N.C., was hired to test water at Camp Lejeune. They found "synthetic organic cleaning solvents" tainting water from two of the base's largest living areas, where thousands of Marines and their family lived.

Although military chemists tested the water in 1980, they waited until July 1984 to test the wells directly. Finally,  Chemists discovered two water treatment plants supplying drinking water to Camp Lejeune were tainted with volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Water from the Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point treatment plants were found to be contaminated.

The wells stayed open until November. By then, news of the toxic water was made public. In late 1984 and 1985 a total of 10 wells would be closed because of contamination.

What caused Camp Lejeune water contamination?

For three decades–from the 1950s to the mid-1980s–the water supply used by hundreds of thousands of Marines and their families was mixed with chemicals from an off-base dry-cleaning company and industrial solvents used to clean military equipment.

Our water supply is made up of a network of pipes, wells, pumps, and treatment facilities that deliver drinking water. Water gets contaminated when toxic substances enter the soil or groundwater. Contaminants can enter the ground from poor waste disposal practices.

Raw, contaminated drinking water is caused by negligence. On and off base actions contributed to the toxic levels of VOCs and toxic chemicals in the water. Dumping waste water down storm drains and failing to replace leaking storage tanks are some of these actions.

The EPA called Lejeune a "major polluter" in the 1970s. As a result, they placed Camp Lejeune on the Superfund program’s National Priorities list in 1989. Cleanup efforts continue more than thirty years later.

What toxic substances were found in the water at Camp Lejeune?

Water testing at Camp Lejeune revealed the presence of several toxic substances. Among these substances were VOCs and heavy metals. Many of these chemicals are either known or suspected human carcinogens.

The two main pollutants in the drinking water from 1957 to 1987 were tetrachloroethylene, also known as perchloroethylene (PCE), and trichloroethylene (TCE). 

A study by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) revealed that concentrations of these chemicals exceeded 240 to 3400 times the levels permitted by EPA safety standards.

What are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and how do they affect our health?

VOCs are environmental contaminants. Often, they are solvents and fuels that evaporate easily. Exposure to VOCs can cause a variety of health issues. 

Known effects include:

  • irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat
  • headaches and loss of coordination
  • nausea
  • central nervous system damage
  • organ damage

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were found in the water delivered to family housing and other facilities on base. Some of these chemicals included the following:

  • Trichloroethylene (TCE): a metal degreaser commonly used on military equipment
  • Tetrachloroethylene (PCE): a dry cleaning agent
  • Benzene, a chemical found in gasoline
  • Vinyl chloride (VC), a colorless gas used to in the process of making plastic products
  • trans-1,2-dichloroethylene (DCE), a colorless liquid used to produce solvents

Some volatile organic compounds can cause cancer. TCE, VC, and benzene are classified as human carcinogens. There are not enough studies on PCE to call it a cancer-causing agent.

What health effects are associated with exposure to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune?

ATSDR studies have found that past exposures from the 1950s through 1985 to TCE, PCE, VC, and other contaminants at the Camp Lejeune likely increased the risk of cancers (kidney, multiple myeloma, leukemias, and others), adverse birth outcomes, and other adverse health effects of people at Camp Lejeune.

Exposure to Camp Lejeune contaminated water may have affected up to one million people. Disastrous health effects have been seen at high rates in the surrounding area. A CDC study found that children at Camp Lejeune had higher rates of birth defects and childhood diseases, including Leukemia and Lymphoma.

Another CDC study discovered who lived at the base had elevated risks for additional types of cancers, as well as Parkinson's Disease and ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Medical conditions linked to Camp Lejeune water contamination

Over 15 health conditions are linked to Camp Lejeune water contamination. Some of these medical conditions include:

  • Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Bladder cancer
  • Kidney cancer and Renal toxicity
  • Liver cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Breast cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Female infertility
  • Hepatic steatosis
  • Leukemia
  • Lung cancer
  • Miscarriage
  • Neurobehavioral effects
  • Scleroderma

There are on-going ATSDR health studies about Camp Lejeune.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has also announced a list of 8 presumptive conditions linked to water contamination at Camp Lejeune. Service members can receive disability benefits. You must file a disability claim with the VA to qualify.

Camp Lejeune Justice Act

In March 2022, Congress voted to pass the Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act is included with other legal matters related to toxic exposures accompanying military service. On June 16, 2022, the Senate passed the bill by a vote of 84 to 14.

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act establishes a critical two-year window from the date of the law’s enactment. During that time, those exposed to toxic water at the military base may commence legal action. 

This bill removes legal technicalities like North Carolina’s statute of repose. Now service members with a history of exposure and relevant medical records will no longer be stopped from filing claims.

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act would allow individuals to file a claim in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina and recover damages for harm from exposure to contaminated water at the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987.

The bill also prohibits the U.S. Government from asserting specific immunity from litigation in response to such a lawsuit. Once the law passes, Veterans and their families can finally move forward with a claim to get the compensation they deserve.

The Rothenberg Law Firm - Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawyers

The personal injury lawyers at The Rothenberg Law Firm are currently accepting Camp Lejeune cases. Individuals affected by water contamination at Camp Lejeune exist all across the US. 

Not all personal injury lawyers are adept at taking on toxic substance exposure claims. The complex nature of these claims requires nuance and years of experience. 

The attorneys at The Rothenberg Law Firm LLP have decades of experience handling toxic substance exposure claims. We go the distance for our clients when liable parties do not offer full and fair compensation for the damages they caused.

We offer a free case evaluation for Camp Lejeune water contamination victims. This gives you a chance to discuss what happened to you and your family members with a skilled attorney. You need answers and are entitled to know your available legal options at no cost. There is no obligation to pursue a case if you choose not to and we do not take any fees unless and until we are successful in obtaining money for you.  

Call us at 1-800-624-8888, or fill out a free contact form today.