Camp Lejeune – Contaminated Water Injuries
Individuals who lived or worked at the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, between 1953 – 1987 could have been exposed to water contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOC), including trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE); as well as benzene; trans-1,2-dichloroethylene (DCE); and vinyl chloride. Exposure to this contaminated water has been linked to an increased risk of cancers —including kidney cancer, leukemias, and multiple myeloma — as well as adverse birth outcomes and other adverse health effects.
Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee & Deitzler, PLLC, is investigating cases where individuals were exposed to volatile organic compounds at Camp Lejeune and have been diagnosed with cancers. You or a family member may be eligible for compensation, regardless of whether you already collect VA benefits for this injury.
Since 1983, our law firm has dedicated itself to protecting the rights of people because of large corporations. Our attorneys in this lawsuit have been selected as “Super Lawyers” – lawyers who have attained a high degree of recognition and professional achievement through independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.
What Do We Know About the Camp Lejeune Lawsuits?
Volatile organic compounds were detected at Camp Lejeune in 1982 and traced to drinking water coming from two of the eight water treatment plants on the base. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reports that from 1953 to 1985 the systems that supplied drinking water to two housing areas at Camp Lejeune were contaminated with industrial chemicals. During this period, close to 9,000,000 service members were potentially exposed to this harmful water, according to the VA, making Camp Lejeune one of the worst cases of water contamination in U.S. history.
Several Camp Lejeune base housing areas were affected by the contamination, including:
- Berkeley Manor
- Hadnot Point
- Hospital Point
- Midway Park
- Paradise Point
- Tarawa Terrace
- Watkins Village
- Knox Trailer Park (Frenchman’s Point)
Although the VA states that exposure dosage and duration, as well as geographic breadth of contamination, are yet to be determined, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has published research to help answer these questions, determine service-connection for related health problems, and devise policy changes to prevent such an occurrence from happening again.
Camp Lejeune Toxic Water Exposure and VA Disability Claims
The discovery of contaminated water at Camp Lejeune prompted VA to establish a presumptive service connection, meaning that servicemembers who were exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, and are diagnosed with certain diseases and conditions need not establish a link between the disease or condition and active-duty service in order to receive VA disability benefits.
Criteria for a Camp Lejeune-Related VA Disability Claim
Military service members must meet all the following criteria to qualify for a Camp Lejeune-related VA disability claim:
- A Veteran, Reservist, or Guardsman
- Stationed at or lived on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, as a service member or family member between August 1953 through December 1987
- Did not receive a dishonorable discharge
- Diagnosed with one or more of the following presumptive conditions:
- Birth Defects
- Bladder Cancer
- Breast Cancer
- Cardiac effects
- Cervical Cancer
- Esophageal Cancer
- Female Infertility
- Hepatic Steatosis
- Kidney Cancer
- Liver Cancer
- Lung Cancer
- Multiple Myeloma
- Myelodysplastic Syndromes
- Neurobehavioral Effects
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Ovarian Cancer
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Renal Toxicity
- Other Cancer or Health Conditions
The VA provides the following map highlighting Camp Lejeune disability benefit coverage area:
VA disability benefits do not adequately compensate service members and their families for the losses they have endured due to their contaminated-drinking-water-related illnesses. Furthermore, servicemembers have not been previously eligible to sue the federal government for damages.
However, legislation introduced in 2022 aims to lift this restriction.
Legislative Response: Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022
In May 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill creating an exception to the rule that the U.S. government is not liable for servicemembers’ injuries. Under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, service members and their families would be permitted to bring legal action to seek financial relief for their injuries/illnesses if resulting from exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.
This federal cause of action covers:
- Individuals who lived, worked, or were exposed for at least 30 days to water at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987 (exposure also includes in utero exposure)
- Where water was supplied by or on behalf of the U.S.
- Suffered exposure-related harm
The Marine Corps developed the Camp Lejeune Historic Drinking Water Notification Database to help identify and communicate with individuals who either lived or worked at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, and could have been exposed to contaminated water.
What are the Toxic Chemicals in Camp Lejeune’s Drinking Water?
The ATSDR provides detailed data about the chemicals found at both the Tarawa Terrace Treatment Plant and the Hadnot Point Treatment Plant. According to the agency’s analysis, PCE was the main contaminant found at Tarawa Terrace, with concentrations exceeding Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maximum contaminant levels. ATSDR explains that this compound degrades in groundwater to TCE, DCE, and vinyl chloride. The source of the PCE contamination was an off-base dry cleaner facility.
At Hadnot Point, the main contaminant found was TCE (at 1,400 parts per billion (ppb)), with the current limit being 5 ppb. DCE, PCE, benzene, and vinyl chloride were also discovered at this treatment plant. According to ATSDR, this contamination stemmed from leaking underground storage tanks and waste disposal sites.
What Are These Chemicals Used For?
The chemicals found in Camp LeJeune drinking water serve multiple purposes.
- TCE and PCE: Volatile organic compounds (fuels and solvents that easily evaporate) used in dry cleaning and in cleaning metal on machines.
- Benzene: An industrial chemical used to make other chemicals that are utilized in the production of resins, plastics, synthetic fibers, and nylon. The chemical is also used in the production of pesticides, detergents, rubbers, drugs, dyes, and lubricants.
- Vinyl chloride: A colorless gas that forms when TCE and PCE break down. The gas is used in the production of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is then utilized in making a wide range of plastic products, such as pipes, coatings, and packaging materials.
Injuries & Side Effects of Exposure to Toxic Water at Camp Lejeune
The health outcomes of exposure to chemicals depend on several factors:
- Age at the time of exposure
- Amount of exposure
- Duration of exposure
- Means of exposure (drinking, breathing, etc.)
- Personal characteristics and habits
Additionally, several studies have shown that exposure to contaminants found in water systems at Camp Lejeune produces an increased risk of certain cancers and illnesses.
2017 Study of Camp Lejeune Water-Related Diseases
A January 2017 study by ATSDR concluded the following potential health effects from Camp Lejeune’s drinking water:
- Kidney cancer
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)
- Cardiac defects
- Bladder cancer
- Liver cancer
2018 Study of Camp Lejeune Water-Related Diseases
In 2018, the ATSDR published a study aimed at determining whether exposure to Camp Lejeune’s contaminated drinking water was linked to specific cancers or other diseases in service members, families, and civilians.
The study reviewed medical problems from this population and compared them with their counterparts at Camp Pendleton, who had not been exposed to the contaminated water. The group also researched whether increased levels of exposure to the drinking water contaminants were connected to an increased risk of disease.
Researchers concluded there was a connection between exposure to Camp Lejeune drinking water and an increased risk of bladder cancer, kidney cancer, and kidney disease.
Specifically, the study showed the following links:
- TCE and PCE exposure: Linked to increased risk for kidney cancer in Marines and civilian workers
- TCE and PCE exposure: Linked to increased risk for bladder cancer and kidney disease in civilian workers
- PCE exposure: Linked to increased risk for bladder cancer and kidney disease in Marines
The study also showed that risks for the following contaminant-disease combinations increased with exposure:
- Kidney cancer: TCE and PCE in Marines and TCE/PCE in civilian workers
- Kidney disease: PCE in Marines and TCE/PCE in civilian workers
What Compensation Is Recoverable in a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit?
The amounts that claimants can receive in Camp Lejeune verdicts or settlements depend on multiple factors, including the type and extent of disease or health condition suffered as a result of exposure to the base’s contaminated water.
Generally, this type of action will involve several types of recoverable damages, including (but not limited to):
- Medical treatment (past and future)
- Lost wages (past and future)
- Pain and suffering from injuries, treatment & recovery (past and future)
- Diminished enjoyment of life (past and future)
- Diminished earning capacity
- Possible punitive damages
Why Choose Our Law Firm
Our law firm is experienced in handling environmental personal injury cases. In 2017, our firm worked to obtain a $670 million settlement in the DuPont C-8 environmental contamination litigation. In addition, in 2018, we were instrumental in settling the case against West Virginia American Water for the water contamination that affected thousands of water customers in the greater Kanawha Valley area.
Our attorneys will continuously work to obtain the maximum financial compensation for our clients in the Camp Lejeune contaminated water litigation.
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DISCLAIMER: Previous results are no guarantee of future outcomes. Each case is unique, and the value of a case depends upon the liability and damage issues relevant to each case. The ability to collect often depends upon the existence and amount of available insurance coverage. There are numerous issues that can greatly impact the ultimate recovery obtained in any given case.