Camp Lejeune is a Marine Corps base in Jacksonville, North Carolina, established in 1942. The base and surrounding community have a population of approximately 150,000 people.
Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune
In 1982, the Marine Corps tested drinking water at Camp Lejeune and discovered that two water treatment plants located on the base were contaminated with Volatile Organic Compounds. The compounds include trichloroethylene, perchloroethylene, benzene and vinyl chloride. These contaminants have been linked to cancer and other serious illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease and birth defects. The sources of contamination were runoff from storage tanks, treatment plants and a dry cleaner in the area.
It is estimated that around one million people lived and/or worked on the base from 1953 to 1987 and were exposed to this toxic water.
Assistance to Those Injured
Veterans, their families and naval personnel previously filed lawsuits against the federal government for injuries sustained as a result of ingesting contaminated water. However, all claims were dismissed and injured plaintiffs recovered no damages. This was due to a doctrine preventing members of the military from suing the federal government for injuries incurred during service. Further, state law barred claims filed ten years after contamination.
In 2012, veterans injured as a result of exposure to contaminated drinking water were given access to medical care for qualifying conditions. In 2017, Veterans Affairs disability benefits finally became available for Camp Lejeune toxic water exposure. But there was still no legal recourse to recover damages for harm suffered as a result of the exposure.
Camp Lejeune Justice Act
Recently, the House of Representatives passed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. The Act is part of the Honoring our PACT Act of 2022 which is meant to improve benefits for injured veterans. The Act recognizes that military families ingested contaminated drinking water from 1953 to 1987. If the Senate passes the bill, claims by veterans and their families for injuries sustained as a result of drinking contaminated water at Camp Lejeune would no longer be prohibited. Claims that were previously dismissed may be refiled and justice may finally be served.
If you were exposed to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune, we may be able to help you seek justice. Contact our office at 504-593-9600.