The environmental disaster at Camp LeJeune stands as one of the worst cases of water contamination in US history. Marines and their families have suffered cancer and other illnesses for decades as a result of negligence on the part of those responsible. Cases stretch back to the 1950s, and exposure continues to this day.
If you or a loved one have become sick from the toxic drinking water contamination event at the US Marion Corps training facility in North Carolina, you deserve to know what happened at Camp LeJeune. You also deserve help from the compassionate and experienced law firm of George Sink, PA Injury Lawyers to win restitution for everything you have endured from someone else’s carelessness.
What Is Camp LeJeune?
Camp LeJeune is a large military installation located in southeastern North Carolina that is home to the US Marine Corps “Expeditionary Forces in Readiness.” This facility was opened in 1942 and is named after Lieutenant General John Archer LeJeune (1867-1942). The base is a center for combat readiness training for Marines and Sailors and houses over 137,000 troops, their families, civilian workers, contractors, guests, and veterans.
The facility comprises close to 156,000 acres of land and water which includes 14 miles of North Carolina beachhead.
What Happened at Camp LeJeune?
In the 1980s, US Army Lab testing determined that the water used at Camp LeJeune had been contaminated with dangerously high levels of various chemicals. Many of the substances are known carcinogens. Thousands of individuals who spent time at the base have reported multiple medical issues and diseases.
The Veterans’ Administration (VA) began a benefits program for those who were exposed and contracted a range of illnesses, such as various cancers and Parkinson’s disease.
Where did the Contamination Come From?
Camp Lejuene specializes in training troops for wartime incursions and quick readiness deployments. Part of the support for these missions includes laboratories that research new advancements in warfare tactics and weapons.
When the research began in the 1940s, little was known about how dangerous it is to dispose of toxic waste in the ground. Hazardous and even radioactive products were sealed in large containers and buried around the facility.
These chemicals leaked into the soil from the containers, causing contamination. Other waste products were dumped directly into the waterways, and repeated fuel leaks from the fuel dumping grounds added to the problem. Additionally, a dry cleaning store across from the base emptied their waste chemicals into sewer drains that ran into the rivers in the area.
How did the Contaminants Get into the Water Used at Camp Lejuene?
The terrain in this part of North Carolina is made of sandy loam, which is a very permeable type of soil. Camp LeJeune also encloses large watery areas such as rivers, marsh, and oceanfront. As chemicals leaked into the ground, they infiltrated the groundwater aquifers and traveled through the surrounding land.
Water treatment plants on the site were unable to clean the water sufficiently, causing residents of the base to ingest the chemicals almost continuously. It was in the water they used for washing, bathing, drinking, and preparing food.
How Many People Have Been Exposed to the Water Contamination?
Troops stationed at Camp LeJeune typically stay for a period of several weeks to a few years. Civilian employees and contractors often work there for years at a time. Because contamination is believed to have begun as early as 1953 and continued to approximately 1987, the number of people exposed is estimated at over 750,000.
When Was the Water Contamination Discovered?
In 1980, new regulations enacted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) required the military to begin testing all their facilities for toxic chemicals. In March 1981, the US Army lab from Fort McPherson tested samples from one of the water treatment plants on the Camp LeJeune base. The report indicated the water was “highly contaminated with low molecular weight halogenated hydrocarbons.”
Later tests in 1982 showed chemical levels anywhere from 240 to 3400 times the permitted safe levels.
How Were Reports of the Contamination at Camp LeJeune Handled?
How the Marine Corps handled the reports of toxic water contamination at Camp LeJeune is a matter of controversy. The Marine Corps reports they acted quickly, but there is evidence they delayed efforts to even acknowledge the problem. Contaminated wells were not closed until five years after the first report, meaning service members, their families, veterans living on base, and civilians working there all continued to use the water in the affected area, unaware of the danger they faced.
The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) claims that there are no Navy (therefore, no Marine) installations that provide clean drinking water in the US or overseas. This means that despite efforts to decontaminate the area, Camp LeJeune remains a risky location for troops and their families.
What Chemicals Were Found in the Water at Camp LeJeune?
Many different chemicals have been found in the water during many years of testing. However, the most dangerous ones found in the highest concentrations were:
- Vinyl chloride: a colorless gas at room temperature that can be forced into a solid-state at low temperatures or under high pressure. It is commonly used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
- Benzene: a colorless liquid with a sweet odor that quickly evaporates into the air. Used to make plastics and pesticides, and found in gasoline.
- Trichloroethylene (TCE): used in dry cleaning applications and to clean metal machinery. Evaporates quickly and dissolves into water and air.
- Perchloroethylene (PCE): similar to TCE, it is another volatile organic compound (VOC) that easily dissolves into water and air.
What Is Being Done to Clean Up the Area at Camp LeJeune?
In 1989, Camp LeJeune was added to the Federal government’s list of Superfund sites to begin the process of removing toxic materials from the area. These efforts are overseen by a group consisting of the US Navy, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and public representatives. Despite regular planning and development on a five-year cycle to clean up the base, experts predict Camp LeJeune will not be clear of water-borne contaminants for many years to come.
An additional concern is the likely presence of the same chemicals inside buildings at the facility. The permeable soil and high humidity mean the contaminants likely traveled throughout the installation, evaporating into the air inside homes, offices, and other structures. Chemicals could have been concentrated and trapped inside the buildings for decades.
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) program is investigating and attempting to resolve this issue.
How Is the Water Contamination Linked to Disease?
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a segment of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), released a position paper about the contaminated water at Camp LeJeune. This report demonstrated a link between the substances found in the base’s water supply with an elevated risk of certain cancers. Numerous other studies have shown this link, and individuals who have gotten sick after exposure at Camp LeJeune have medical evidence that their illness could not have been caused by other factors.
How Can Camp LeJeune Victims Seek Aid for Being Exposed?
Anyone who is a veteran and who suffers diseases they believe are related to their exposure at Camp LeJeune can receive benefits from the Veterans’ Administration (VA). Veterans, reservists, and guardsmen who served at the base are eligible for healthcare and compensation payments from the program.
Victims who qualify can also pursue a lawsuit in the future under the Camp LeJeune Justice Act of 2021. This act will cover both service members and their families.
What Is the Camp LeJeune Justice Act of 2021 (CLJA)?
In March 2021, the Camp LeJeune Justice Act (CLJA) was introduced in the United States House of Representatives. It is a response to the public outcry of thousands who tried to sue the US Marines and other entities for compensation for their illnesses. North Carolina’s tort law caused these cases to be dismissed because they passed the 10-year window for filing.
The bill passed the House in early 2022 and is working its way through the US Senate. The bill currently allows up to two years for claimants to file their cases once the CLJA is signed into law.
How Will the Camp LeJeune Justice Act Help Me if I Am a Victim?
The CLJA will begin a new filing window for victims to sue those who caused the harm. This act will increase the chances of successfully pursuing justice and receiving fair compensation for medical bills and other losses.
When the CLJA is signed into law, there will likely be thousands of individuals seeking to file claims. There is a chance that the lawsuits may be condensed into a single multi-district litigation (MDL) class action suit. This will enable plaintiffs to receive a judgment much faster.
The government is also more likely to settle this suit quickly to reduce its financial obligations and minimize media attention.
How Do I Qualify for a Camp LeJeune Lawsuit Under the CLJA?
Because the CLJA is not final, you cannot begin a lawsuit yet. However, you can and should begin planning your approach now with a qualified Camp LeJeune lawsuit attorney. You must prove your exposure amount (30 days minimum) and time period (between 1953 and 1987), as well as show medically documented proof that your illness is related to your exposure.
Once you are ready to begin, the lawyers at George Sink, PA Injury Lawyers will work diligently to help you build the strongest case possible. We can guide you through requesting documentation and reports from your medical providers. Our team will also work to uncover all relevant information regarding how your illness is related to the chemicals at Camp LeJeune.
All you need to do is contact us and then rest easy knowing we will do the hard work for you.
What Diseases Are Linked to the Camp LeJeune Water Contamination?
Numerous common and rare diseases have been linked to the chemicals found at Camp LeJeune. They include:
- Reproductive problems
- Multiple myeloma
- Parkinson’s disease
- Autoimmune disease
- Bladder cancer
- Liver cancer
- Lung cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Congenital disabilities
- Breast cancer
What Damages Can I Seek in a Lawsuit?
Victims can seek damages from the government in two main categories: economic and non-economic. Economic losses generally come with a receipt, a bill, or a specific price tag. Non-economic damages are less concrete and have more to do with your pain and suffering. Here are some examples:
Economic damages for Camp Lejuene water contamination:
- Doctor visits
- Insurance copays
- Surgery costs
- Hospitalization bills
- Home health care
- In-home medical equipment
- Prosthetic devices
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Lost income
- Loss of earning potential
- Travel to medical appointments
- Future medical bills
Non-economic damages for Camp Lejuene water contamination:
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of enjoyment of lifeScarring
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
When you work with a qualified George Sink, PA Injury Lawyers Camp LeJeune lawsuit attorney, you will have help calculating the full value of your claim. They will also help you estimate future expenses so you can pursue the maximum compensation you and your family deserve.
How do I File a Camp Lejuene Lawsuit?
Although the Camp LeJeune Justice Act has not been finalized, you can begin to prepare for your lawsuit today. Your first move should be to contact a qualified attorney who will help you understand your options and keep you updated on when you can file your claim. Even if your illness began years ago, you can still pursue justice and claim your compensation. Finding a lawyer who will listen to your story and be with you through the complex legal process is your best chance of receiving a fair settlement.
Once you have hired a lawyer for your Camp LeJeune lawsuit, here are some steps you can take to prepare:
- Gather all medical records and bills related to your illness.
- Organize all these items and add them to a single folder for safekeeping.
- Contact any medical providers to ask for information you may be missing.
- Write a list of days you received treatment and the type of treatment.
- Create a record of the miles you traveled for appointments and treatments.
- Begin keeping a pain journal to record your progress and recovery.
- Share all the information you have gathered with your attorney for their review.
- Keep your plans to file a lawsuit to yourself as much as possible.
- Do not post about your lawsuit plans on any social media platform.
- Do not share your plans to file a claim with anyone who is likely to post on social media about it.
- Do not talk about your plans to file with anyone besides your lawyer.
Try to put together as much detail as possible and make your best estimate on anything you cannot document. A good attorney like the professionals at George Sink, PA Injury Lawyers can assist you in building a strong case. We will work with you to develop a list of damages you can seek in your specific situation. Our lawyers will also stay informed of any changes to the CLJA that may affect you.
How Can George Sink, PA Injury Lawyers Help Me If I Was Exposed to Contamination at Camp LeJeune?
The recognized period of contamination spans over 30 years, and nearly 1 million people may have been exposed to the toxic chemicals that leached into the drinking water at Camp LeJeune. This tragedy has gone unrelieved for too long, and many continue to suffer to this day. Even though decontamination efforts are ongoing, it may be a long time before the base is clean again. If you are one of those hoping for justice after years of pain and suffering, George Sink, PA Injury Lawyers can help.
We have helped people just like you recover over $1 billion in jury awards and settlements by gathering evidence, investigating defendants, and litigating claims with force and expertise. Our team will examine every aspect of the Camp LeJeune water contamination event to litigate the best outcome in your case. You can continue to heal knowing that we are working tirelessly to win for you.
Call or contact our office today to discuss your case and schedule a free consultation. We are waiting to help you and your family find peace.