After decades of possible exposure and the development of countless illnesses and health conditions of individuals that lived or worked at the Camp Lejeune military base in North Carolina, the government is allowing certain victims to file claims for their damages.
The statute limits the period to file the claim. As time closes in on the deadline of August 2024, more and more claimants are taking action to fight for justice and compensation for their damages from the water contamination at Camp Lejeune.
What Happened at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune Leading to Water Contamination?
The events at Camp Lejeune are one of the most egregious examples of the failure of agencies and the government to protect those who served our country and worked at the North Carolina Camp Lejeune military installment.
The history of Camp Lejeune reveals that contaminants began to seep into the water sources providing water to the base as far back as August 31, 1953. Although several water treatment plants serviced the area’s water needs, three water plants in particular experienced water contamination beginning in 1953 and continuing through 1987.
The contamination of the water did not occur from one action from one party but rather a combination of activities that led to dangerous compounds and chemicals entering the water supply. Many studies have the contamination at Camp Lejeune occurred because of activities such as disposal of materials and waste from dry cleaning services, industrial spills, seepage from waste collection and storage, and use and improper storage of certain cleaning chemicals.
Sadly, the water contamination continued into 1987 until the government shut down the final affected water treatment plant. Over a span of three decades, the water that many of those on the Camp Lejeune military base used for drinking, bathing, cooking, and everyday activities contained hazardous substances unbeknownst to them.
Did Anyone Know About the Water Contamination Problem at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina?
Although the water contamination began in 1953, it was not until the 1980s when environmental agencies tested the water in the area, and testing revealed that several dangerous compounds were in the water.
Unfortunately, this discovery did not lead to immediate action to stop the contamination and the contaminated water from entering the homes and buildings where people lived and worked on the Camp Lejeune base. The water contamination continued for several more years until the final closure of the last water treatment plant in 1987.
What Was the Water Contaminated With at Camp Lejeune?
Although various substances and compounds were found in the water from the affected water treatment plants of Hadnot Point, Tarawa Terrace, and Holcomb Boulevard, the most concerning were those chemicals classified as volatile organic compounds or VOCs. The primary VOCs found in the water at Camp Lejeune were PCE (tetrachloroethylene) and TCE (trichloroethylene), both common ingredients found in solvents and cleaning liquids used near or on the base in the past.
Are the Contaminants in the Water Found at Camp Lejeune Dangerous to Humans?
There were several possible contaminants found in the water at Camp Lejeune. However, the presence of the VOCs, PCE, and TCE is most concerning. The nature of these volatile compounds and the potential health impacts to those exposed repeatedly during their time on the base is alarming.
VOCs’ effects can cause severe medical conditions over time. The EPA classifies PCE and TCE as likely human carcinogens. This indicates that exposure to either one or both of these compounds can cause cancer, and the risk of cancer increases, as does the rate of exposure by the victims exposed.
Sadly, the people who lived and worked in or visited Camp Lejeune over the thirty-four-year span of water contamination likely suffered exposure to these contaminants and others during their time there.
The water contaminated was the general water supply of the work and living community. The water with these contaminants made its way into everyday activities in homes, such as bathing, drinking, and cooking as well as throughout the military base’s day-to-day operations. The risk of exposure to the contaminants was high and continued to increase the longer an individual was on the base.
What Illnesses and Medical Conditions Could Develop From the Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune?
The contamination of the water at Camp Lejeune spanned over three decades, and 70 years have now passed since the contamination of the water began. During this time, many people have developed health problems and diseases likely associated with the water contamination at the base, and some have lost their lives.
The expansive amount of time related to the contamination of the water and the time that passed after the fact has revealed many of the possible health conditions and illnesses that could develop from exposure to the hazardous substances in the water at the North Carolina Camp Lejeune military base.
Although some of the conditions are strongly linked to the contamination of the water at the military base, there are many health effects that the water may have caused to victims over time. The conditions associated with the military base’s water contamination do not include all possible health effects. If you or a loved one spent time at Camp Lejeune during the water contamination period and later developed health problems, your condition may be due to the contaminants, and you may be eligible for compensation.
Examples of illnesses and medical conditions linked to the Camp Lejeune water contamination include:
- Kidney cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Liver cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Breast cancer
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Aplastic anemia
- Fertility problems
- Parkinson’s disease
- Renal toxicity
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Neurobehavioral impacts
- Hepatic steatosis
How Many People Did the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Affect?
The number of people that may have suffered effects from the Camp Lejeune water contamination is unfathomable. The contaminants continued to seep into the water supply for decades before any action occurred. Several more years passed before the contamination stopped.
Estimates based on the number of people that lived, worked, and frequented Camp Lejeune over this time are that one million people may have suffered exposure to the contaminated water. One million people could have health effects deriving from the widespread water contamination at the Camp Lejeune military base.
During this time, servicemen and women, civilians, and family members of the military called Camp Lejeune their home or workplace. For years people unknowingly came into contact with hazardous carcinogens and other compounds in the water, making them susceptible to a wide range of medical issues. Within this estimation of one million victims, many have developed severe health conditions such as cancer or have died from a disease caused by contaminated water.
Is It Too Late for Camp Lejeune Victims to Get Justice?
Although many victims of the Camp Lejeune water contamination could not seek justice for the illnesses they experienced due to the government’s immunity, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act now allows these victims to take action. The government knew about the harm to individuals who lived and worked at Camp Lejeune during the water contamination period.
Prior laws addressed the injuries reported by providing some victims the chance to file for disability benefits, but it was not enough. Currently, the legislation allows victims directly affected by the water contamination and, in some cases, families of victims to file a claim for compensation for certain damages.
What is the Camp Lejeune Justice Act?
For many years the recourse offered to victims of the water contamination at Camp Lejeune were scarce and limited. The options for help came only from disability benefits available under the VA.
Unfortunately, a close look at this program over time revealed that many of the claims filed resulted in claim denials from the VA. Additionally, the benefits provided to those approved may be insufficient to cover the extent of the losses many of the victims experienced.
To address the limited help available to victims and offer victims the opportunity to pursue compensation related to their injuries from the water contamination, the government passed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act as part of the PATH Act in August 2022.
Under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, victims and certain families of Camp Lejeune water contamination victims may now be eligible to file a claim for their losses against the US government. Victims who previously filed for benefits from the VA can also seek compensation under the act for losses not covered previously.
How Many Victims Have Filed a Claim Under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act?
We cannot know the exact number of claims filed under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act because each day, that number changes. The claims for victims of the Camp Lejeune water contamination continue to rise as more victims come forward and hire attorneys to represent them in the claims against the government for their losses.
However, due to the massive impact of the water contamination at Camp Lejeune and the potential number of victims surpassing one million, the number of claims under the act could surpass many of the most prominent civil claims and cases in the history of the US. The preliminary estimates are that the claims filed under the act may reach nearly half a million.
How Much Time Do Victims Have Under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act to File a Claim?
There is a narrow window of time for when the victims considering a claim for damages may act. When the Camp Lejeune Justice Act became law in 2022 as part of the PACT Act, and the opportunity for filing these claims became law, the government granted a very specific statute of limitations for victims to take action.
Victims of Camp Lejeune water contamination have only two years from the law’s enactment to file their claim for damages against the US government. Once the window passes, victims will likely be unable to pursue their claim for compensation arising from this incident.
How Much Money Can a Camp Lejeune Victim Be Eligible For?
The amount of money you may be eligible for as a Camp Lejeune water contamination victim will vary. The government will consider certain factors such as the extent of your illness, the impacts of your illness on your life, and the type of condition or illness you developed after exposure.
Additionally, how much time you spent at Camp Lejeune during the contamination period and the extent of your possible exposure may also be under consideration as part of the claims process. To get a more in-depth estimate of a potential claim’s value under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, you should contact a Camp Lejeune claim attorney to discuss the specifics of your case and your time at Camp Lejeune.
What are the Requirements For Filing a Claim Under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act?
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act identifies the victims that may be eligible to file a claim for compensation for damages arising from the water contamination at Camp Lejeune.
Individuals who meet these requirements may recover compensation:
- Anyone who lived, worked, or otherwise spent at minimum 30 days at the Camp Lejeune military base between August 1953 and December 1987; and
- Victims that show they suffered injury through a medical condition or another health effect due to the exposure to the contaminated water.
It is worth noting that the 30-day timeframe required does not have to be concurrent, so long as the victim can show through documentation that they were at the base for a cumulative period of 30 days during the time of the water contamination throughout the military base, including on-base housing.
If you or a loved one meet the requirements set forth by the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, you should immediately contact a Camp Lejeune justice attorney for further assistance and information on filing a claim, if eligible.