The contamination of the drinking water at the United States Marine Corp Base Camp Lejune.




Camp Lejeune Water Contamination

From 1953 to 1987, the drinking water at the United States Marine Corps (USMC) Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina may have been contaminated. During that time, nearly a million civilian workers, military service members, and their families were potentially exposed to dangerous chemicals that can cause cancer and other serious health issues.

Close to one million people lived and worked at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987, many of them bathing in and consuming the contaminated water. The ATSDR study compared causes of death for thousands of Marines and personnel stationed at Lejeune, and Camp Pendleton in California (where the water was not contaminated) during the time period in question. They found that the Camp Lejeune group had significantly higher mortality rates for cancers of the cervix, esophagus, kidney, liver, lung, pancreas, prostate, rectum and soft tissue, as well as Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma, and multiple sclerosis. The longer someone lived at Camp Lejeune, the more likely they were to suffer from one of these ailments.

The USMC’s slow response after being made aware of the contaminated water is one reason why lawmakers believe people who suffered medical complications after drinking the water are entitled to be compensated.

Contaminated Water at Camp Lejeune Linked to Cancer

In 1982, the U.S. Marine Corps discovered dangerous chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the drinking water at the Camp Lejeune base in North Carolina. However, the contamination actually began in 1953 and continued to expose base workers, service members, and their families until 1987, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), though the most contaminated wells were removed from service in February 1985.

Camp Lejeune represents the worst contamination of a public water system in American history. From 1953 to 1987 the water supply at the Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina was contaminated with dangerously high levels of carcinogenic chemicals. Marines, their families, and people who worked at Camp Lejeune drank and bathed in water contaminated with more than 70 chemicals and toxins at levels 240 to 3400 times permitted by safety standards.

PCE Contamination Levels - Camp Lejeune

The toxic VOCs found in the drinking water included:

  • Benzene: Used to make other chemicals that compose plastics, resins, and nylon and synthetic fibers
  • Tetrachloroethylene (also known as perchloroethylene or PCE): For dry cleaning and metal degreasing
  • Trichloroethylene (TCE): A solvent used to clean metal parts
  • Vinyl chloride (VC): Over time, TCE and PCE in groundwater degrade to become VC

Benzene, TCE, and VC are all classified as cancer-causing chemicals, while PCE is classified as probably carcinogenic. Exposure to these chemicals can also increase the risk of birth defects and other health problems.

Studies Link Contaminants in Camp Lejeune Water to Cancer

The chemicals that were in the Camp Lejeune water supply for 4 decades are well-known to be extremely harmful to the human body and have been associated with cert types of cancer, neurologic disorders, and birth defects. Medical studies and research has established that prolonged exposure to TCE and PCE is associated with higher rates of certain cancers. The cancers that have been linked to TCE and PCE exposure in drinking water at Camp Lejeune include:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Female infertility
  • Hepatic steatosis
  • Kidney cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Lung cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Neurobehavioral effects
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Renal toxicity
  • Scleroderma

Other health conditions, such as aplastic anemia (and other myelodysplastic syndromes) and neurologic disorders, have also been linked to exposure to PCE and TCE. Other injuries include:

  • ALS (Lou Gerhig’s Disease)
  • Birth defects and injuries
  • Brain damage
  • Cardiac defects
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Miscarriage
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Plastic anemia (and other bone marrow conditions)

If you served at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune or Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River in North Carolina, you may have had contact with contaminants in the drinking water there. Scientific and medical evidence has shown an association between exposure to these contaminants during military service and development of certain diseases later on.

Military Ignored and Concealed the Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune

In recent years, a long trail of evidence has been uncovered that clearly shows that the U.S. Marine Corps knew about the Camp Lejeune water contamination for years but first ignored and then later actively concealed the issue.

The dangerous water contamination at Camp Lejeune was first discovered back in 1980 when new EPA regulations were enacted which required the military to perform testing for the first time. The testing was done by the U.S. Army Environmental Hygiene Agency and in March 1981 that agency provided a report to the U.S. Marine Corps warning that “[w]ater is highly contaminated with other chlorinated hydrocarbons (solvents)!” No immediate action was taken in response.

In 2005, the EPA and the Department of Justice launched a formal investigation into the USMC’s handling of the Camp Lejeune water contamination issue. This investigation ultimately concluded that no USMC officials had engaged in criminal conduct with respect to the Camp Lejeune water problem. In 2007, however, it was revealed that EPA officials involved in the investigation wanted to charge several Lejeune officials with obstruction of justice, but they were overruled by the DOJ prosecutors.

Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022

Decades after consuming contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune, victims who suffered adverse health effects may be allowed to recover monetary damages from the US Government. Federal lawmakers, including Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, are trying to pass legislation to help former residents and workers on the Marine base who developed illnesses linked to tainted well water they consumed while living there.

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 is a bipartisan bill intended to ensure that individuals – veterans, their family members or other individuals living or working at the base between 1953 and 1987 – who were harmed by water contamination at Camp Lejeune receive fair compensation. Many of these individuals have had their claims inappropriately denied or delayed, resulting in additional harm.

The Bill is making its way through Congress as part of the Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives on March 4, 2022. The Act will permit people who worked, lived, or were exposed in-utero, to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987, to file a claim in U.S. federal court.

Update – June 16, 2022–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Today, the United States Senate voted to pass the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, a federal mandate with bipartisan support to provide former residents of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, military, civilians and their families the right to seek reparations from the U.S. government. The bill is expected to be signed into law by President Biden, under the Honoring Our PACT Act, as soon as next week.

If you lived or worked at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987, People or loved ones of those who lived, worked, or were stationed at Camp Lejeune who experienced a water toxicity-related illness may be eligible for compensation.