Camp Lejeune, situated in Onslow County, North Carolina, and named in honor of Lieutenant General John A. Lejeune, is a 233-square-mile military base that was established in the early 1940s. Over its lifetime, it has served six major Marine Corps commands and two U.S. Navy commands. With over 450 miles of roads, 6,946 buildings, and facilities that can support over 137,000 military personnel, their families, and civilian employees, Camp Lejeune was built to last. But, in the early 1980s, it was discovered that the drinking water systems that supplied water to the entire base were contaminated, leading to illness and death.
In 1980, during a routine test for trihalomethanes, the Marine Corps discovered that the drinking water systems that supplied at least two housing areas at Camp Lejeune (Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point) were contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The most hazardous contaminants found were identified as the solvents trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE).
The contaminants were produced as byproducts of water-treatment processes. It was found that Tarawa Terrace water was contaminated with PCE from an off-base dry-cleaning operation, guilty of accidental spills and improper disposal of PCE. The contamination likely began as early as 1953. The contaminated water sent to Hadnot Point came from various sources and contained many contaminants, the most prevalent being TCE. The main source of contamination was from on-base spills at industrial sites and leaks from underground storage tanks and drums at dump sites. While the Hadnot Point water-treatment plant started operations in 1943, there is no concrete date of when the contamination began. Both wells were removed from service from 1984-1985, but the damage had already been done.
Both Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point water systems served enlisted-personnel family housing and barracks for unmarried service members. Sadly, most exposed people were young service members starting families. Both water systems also served base administrative offices, schools, and recreation areas. The Hadnot Point water system also supplied the base hospital and other industrial areas. At this time, it is still unknown how many people were exposed to the contaminated water.
Controversy continues to plague Camp Lejeune. Questions persist on when leadership knew the drinking water was contaminated, if the Marine Corps and the Department of the Navy took appropriate action, and whether the information was disclosed promptly and appropriately.
Families are left to wonder if the deaths and illnesses they have suffered or their loved ones have suffered can be linked to the contaminated water. They also question if the investigations conducted were done with their well-being and the truth in mind. Hundreds of former residents and employees who worked and resided at Camp Lejeune have filed claims and lawsuits with the Department of the Navy.
The cancer-causing chemicals in the Camp Lejeune contaminated drinking water can lead to various cancers. The most common and egregious include:
Those eligible for compensation include:
The victims of Camp Lejeune water contamination finally have a chance to pursue the justice they have been denied for decades.
However, time is at a premium. August 10, 2024, is the deadline to file a Camp Lejeune claim. It is crucial that you contact our water contamination lawyers immediately so you don’t miss out on your chance.
It is important to note that victims of Camp Lejeune water contamination can pursue VA benefits on their own, a Camp Lejeune toxic water lawsuit has already been filed, so having a legal professional on your side can help you navigate the process.
If you lived or worked at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, you may be eligible to pursue compensation. Contact us for a free case consultation.
According to the Department of Justice, Camp Lejeune’s toxic water claims top $3 trillion, and more than 117,000 claims have been filed with the Navy. Some of the claims will be paid through the early resolution program, but many others will end up in trial, some as early as next year. Any settlements agreed upon will be separate from a VA claim and will be considered additional compensation.
On August 10, 2022, President Biden signed into law the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. Section 804 of this act specifically addresses Camp Lejeune and is called the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA). It allows veterans and civilians previously exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune to file a new claim with the Department of the Navy.
The Camp Lejeune settlement timelines will vary based on a variety of factors and is different for each individual case. The passing of the CLJA dictated that the U.S. Navy had six months to respond to claims with a settlement offer or denial. It has become glaringly apparent that this deadline will not be met. With over 100,000 claims filed, very few, if any, have seen payment.
In early September, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Navy announced a new payout system to alleviate and address the setbacks. The Elective Option (EO) allows Camp Lejeune victims, with qualifying conditions, to receive payouts up to $550,000 if they have been diagnosed with kidney cancer, liver cancer, Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia, bladder cancer, multiple myeloma, Parkinson’s disease, kidney disease (end-stage renal disease), or systemic sclerosis/systemic scleroderma. The payout depends on how long the victim was stationed at Camp Lejeune.
EO aims to speed up the process, but this option is not the best path forward for everyone. For some veterans, they already have a serious illness and a shortened lifespan. Those terminally ill may be more receptive to this method. The EO also helps those with harder-to-prove cases and offers simplified eligibility.
Before anyone takes the EO, it is critical to know that once taken, you can no longer file a lawsuit. A lawsuit, while risky, can yield far better results as you can ask for damages for pain and suffering, lost wages, and other losses that are not recognized under the EO. Additionally, those with multiple qualifying illnesses may find a lawsuit will lead to a better result, as compensation will be based on the illness with the highest compensation level. The biggest barrier is that no one knows how long the EO option will take.