From the years 1953-1987, the United States Marine Corps training facility at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina exposed service members, their families, and civilian workers to contaminated drinking, cooking, and bathing water.

Industrial waste, pesticides, solvents, and other chemicals were buried in the ground and dumped into storm drains. These toxins inevitably leaked into the local water supply and have been linked to cancer, birth defects, miscarriages, and numerous other health concerns.  In some cases, the chemical concentrations were thousands of times higher than levels considered safe.  The United States government knew about this contamination and failed to act.

It has been estimated that more than one million civilian workers, military service members, and their families may have been exposed to the contaminated water supply. Victims may now be eligible to receive financial settlements under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022.  The Camp Lejeune Justice Act won final approval by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday as part of the PACT Act.  The PACT Act is a bill enhancing health care and disability benefits for millions of veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.

Camp Lejeune Water Contamination

As early as 1953, the water supply at Camp Lejeune became contaminated. Hazardous chemicals and volatile compounds poisoned the local water supply for over 30 years. These toxins filtered into the groundwater from junk yards, fuel supplies, and a dry-cleaning facility located near the USMC base.

It wasn’t until 1982 that the military and the U.S. Government discovered the contamination. Cancer-causing toxins such as trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), benzene, and vinyl chloride (VC) were detected in the water used for drinking, cooking, and bathing. More than 1 million civilian workers, military personnel, and their families were exposed to what some are calling the largest water contamination disaster in the nation’s history.

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 is a bill which allows victims of water contamination at Camp Lejeune to file lawsuits in federal court to recover a financial settlement for damages. The bill will become law once signed by the President.

What Caused the Camp Lejeune Contamination?

Beginning in the early 1980’s, it was discovered that several water sources at the Camp Lejeune Marine base became contaminated with toxic chemicals.  As early as the opening of Camp Lejeune in 1942, dangerous industrial compounds began to seep into the water systems supplied by Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point water-treatment plants. These plants served enlisted-family housing, barracks, administrative offices, schools, and recreational areas, and the hospital.

Water from the Tarawa Terrace water treatment plant, which began operation in 1952, was primarily contaminated by the waste disposal practices at an off-base dry-cleaning facility, ABC One-Hour Cleaners.  This plant provided water to Tarawa Terrace family housing and the Knox Trailer Park.  The Tarawa Terrace plant was shut down in 1987.

Water from the Hadnot Point water treatment plant, which was established during the construction of Camp Lejeune in 1942, was contaminated primarily by leaking underground storage tanks, industrial waste, and other disposal sites. More than 800,000 gallons of fuel is said to have leaked into the ground. This plant generally served the Mainside barracks, Hospital Point family housing, and family housing at Midway Park, Paradise Point, and Berkeley Manor until June of 1972.

Chemicals Found in the Water

The water supply at Camp Lejeune was contaminated by hazardous chemicals, volatile organic compounds, and other dangerous toxins such as fuel, oil, and degreasers for more than three decades.

Numerous studies have been done by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease (ATSDR) that link exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune to many diseases, including several types of cancer. The primary chemicals found in the water were Tetrachloroethylene, Benzene, and DCE. 

Health Conditions Caused by Camp Lejeune Contamination

Prolonged and recurring exposure to the chemicals of tetrachloroethylene (PCE), trichloroethylene (TCE), benzene, and vinyl chloride through the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune is tied to a number of serious health conditions. These conditions include various types of cancer, birth defects, infertility, and other diseases. A list of presumptive conditions related to the water contamination at Camp Lejeune was made available by the Department of Veteran Affairs in 2012. These conditions include:

  • Adult Leukemia

  • Aplastic Anemia and other Myelodysplastic syndromes

  • Bladder Cancer

  • Kidney Cancer

  • Liver Cancer

  • Multiple Myeloma

  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

  • Parkinson’s Disease

Additional diseases connected with the Camp Lejeune water contamination include:

  • Birth Defects (including underdeveloped organs)

  • Breast Cancer

  • Cardiac Defects

  • Cervical Cancer

  • Esophageal Cancer

  • Fatty Liver Disease

  • Infertility

  • Liver Disease

  • Lung Cancer

  • Miscarriages

  • Myelodysplastic Syndrome

  • Neurological Issues

  • Ovarian Cancer

  • Prostate Cancer

  • Renal Toxicity

Settlement Eligibility

To be eligible for a settlement, an individual must have lived, worked, served, or have been present at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 cumulative days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 and developed some type of harm (such as cancer or other health condition) due to the base’s contaminated water.  Unborn children whose mother served, lived, or worked at the base while she was carrying the child may also be eligible.

It will take some time until anyone is certain what to expect in the form of monetary settlements.  Many factors are to be considered, including (but not limited to) the type of health conditions, severity of harm suffered, and the amount of time spent on base.  Lawsuit settlements may also compensate pain and suffering, lost income, medical bills, and more.

How to File a Claim

All claims must be filed in the United States Federal Court.  Ed White Law is prepared to represent you on a contingency basis, which means that you will not owe attorney fees unless you are awarded compensation from the lawsuit. If you are awarded compensation, attorney fees will be paid from your settlement.  

It is anticipated that there will be a two-year window from the date the bill becomes law in which claimants must file a lawsuit in Federal Court.

If you are already receiving compensation through the VA due to your exposure to toxic water at Camp Lejeune, you are still eligible to file a lawsuit under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. You will not risk losing your current benefits.

If you or someone you know lived, worked, or was otherwise present at Camp Lejeune for more than 30 days between 1953 and 1987, please call us at 405-810-8188 for a complimentary case analysis.

For more information on lawsuit qualifications, click here.