April 13, 2024

Camp Lejeune Water Contamination: A Deep Dive into the Tragedy


For years, an array of hazardous substances, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and industrial solvents, infiltrated the drinking water supply at Camp Lejeune, a United States Marine Corps base in North Carolina. Unbeknownst to military personnel, their families, and civilian workers, exposure to these contaminants posed severe health risks.


The extent of the contamination and its impact on human health slowly came to light, igniting a long and arduous battle for justice, accountability, and remediation. In this article, we will explore the lasting repercussions of the Camp Lejeune water contamination incident and the ongoing challenges that persist.

Let’s get started!

Timeline and Scope of Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune

In the early 1950s, the U.S. Department of Defense detected volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the water supply at Camp Lejeune. However, action to address the issue was not immediately taken, leaving countless people unaware of the dangerous situation.


It wasn’t until the 1980s that the extent of the contamination began to emerge, as scientific studies and investigations shed light on the alarming presence of toxic chemicals in the base’s drinking water.


The primary contaminants found in the Camp Lejeune water supply included tetrachloroethylene (PCE), benzene, trichloroethylene (TCE), and vinyl chloride. These carcinogenic substances entered the water system through various sources, including leaky storage tanks, disposal practices, and industrial activities that occurred on the base.

The Physical and Emotional Toll of Water Contamination

The consequences of the contamination were significant and far-reaching. According to estimates by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), approximately 1 million military personnel, their families, and civilian workers were potentially exposed to the contaminated water during the period of contamination. Tragically, these individuals faced an increased risk of developing serious health conditions as a result.


A study published in the journal Environmental Health delved deeper into the mortality rates in military personnel exposed to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune. Researchers found elevated rates of various cancers, including kidney cancer, liver cancer, leukemia, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, among exposed individuals.


It was discovered that those working at Camp Lejeune had a 10% higher risk of dying from any of these cancers, a 47% higher risk of Hodgkin lymphoma, a 42% higher risk of liver cancer, a 35% higher risk of kidney cancer, and a 68% higher risk of multiple myeloma compared to Marines working at Camp Pendleton in California over the same time period.


Moreover, a higher incidence of birth defects, reproductive disorders, and neurological disorders has been observed among the children born to parents who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune during the contamination period.

Legal Battles and Compensation

The Camp Lejeune water contamination incident has triggered a series of legal battles and efforts to secure compensation for the individuals and families who suffered the devastating health consequences of the toxic exposure.


According to TorHoerman Law, a large number of lawsuits have been filed against the U.S. government, seeking accountability for the failures in preventing and addressing the water contamination at Camp Lejeune and compensation for the damages incurred by the victims.


The Camp Lejeune settlement amounts to be anywhere between $10,000 to $500,000 per claim. This estimation is based on the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) budget for Camp Lejeune contamination. If you believe you, too, have been exposed to the Camp Lejeune water contamination and have experienced adverse health effects as a result, there are avenues to seek compensation and pursue legal action.


Here’s a brief overview of the process:


1. Gather documentation: Collect relevant records to establish your connection to Camp Lejeune during the contamination period.
2. Consult a lawyer: Receive legal counsel from a qualified environmental law or hazardous tort lawsuit attorney.
3. File a claim: Follow the appropriate legal procedures, either by filing a claim with the relevant government agency or pursuing a lawsuit.
4. Establish causation: Provide evidence linking the contaminants to your health condition, such as medical records and expert opinions.
5. Be aware of the statute of limitations: File your claim within the designated timeframe.
6. Explore compensation options: Consider class-action settlements, government programs, and other avenues for financial restitution.
Legislative Initiatives

In response to the Camp Lejeune water contamination, legislative initiatives have been introduced to address the impact on affected individuals and establish measures for compensation, healthcare, and accountability. Two notable acts are the ‘Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act, 2012’ and the ‘Camp Lejeune Justice Act’ of 2022.


The Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 expanded healthcare coverage for veterans and their family members who were stationed at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987. It provided medical care through the Veterans Administration for certain conditions associated with water contamination. It also aims to provide for the needs of the veterans and their families through improved housing, education, and other benefits.


The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, enacted more recently, is aimed at allowing victims of the water contamination catastrophe to file lawsuits for financial compensation and to recover their damages.


These legislative initiatives reflect the recognition of the need for government intervention and support in addressing the long-term consequences of environmental hazards on military personnel and their families.


The tragedy of the Camp Lejeune water contamination underscores the importance of proactive measures to prevent similar incidents and the responsibility to prioritize the well-being of individuals and communities.

Continued advocacy, awareness, and ongoing support are essential to ensure that lessons are learned, accountability is maintained, and the affected individuals receive the care and justice they deserve.

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