Many residents from Columbia and across South Carolina have settled here in the Palmetto State after having made tours both domestically and abroad with the military. It’s possible that your travels have taken you to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina if that’s the case. If so, you may want to continue reading about the Camp Lejeune water supply issues that have become a focal point in recent years.
You might find that any health conditions you’re experiencing are attributable to your time there on base. If that’s the case, you may want to speak to a South Carolina Camp Lejeune water contamination lawyer who may be able to help you take legal action against those who allowed the contamination to occur.
Why Are Camp Lejeune Lawsuits Being Filed?
If you served at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune or Marine Core Air Station (MCAS) New River in North Carolina, you might have had contact with contaminated drinking water there. Whether you consumed this toxic water or were exposed to runoff from waste disposal sites that have since caused you to develop a serious illness, you should consider being evaluated by a medical professional.
Your doctors may determine your condition is potentially attributable to your exposure to toxic chemicals in the water at Camp Lejeune. If this happens, you might have a lawsuit on your hands. The Camp Lejeune attorneys at our Columbia law firm can help you determine that.
Medical expenses can be significant when you’re facing serious health concerns. Many Camp Lejeune victims have significant health care costs. Receiving a settlement amount can help them receive the best possible medical care for their conditions. You may be eligible for Camp Lejeune settlement payouts yourself.
How Long Have Officials Known About Toxic Water at Camp Lejeune?
Scientific and medical research has linked exposure to these pollutants or toxic chemicals while serving or working at Camp Lejeune with the development of certain illnesses later in life.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may not have regulated the toxic substances and contaminants found in Camp Lejeune’s water supply. However, evidence shows that the Corps knew of the dangers that organic solvents in the water at Camp Lejeune posed as early as 1974.
Despite the lack of regulation from the EPA for organic solvents, several wells found to contain toxic substances were closed by the Corps through the 1970s by the Department of Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.
Various sources released toxic chemicals like benzene, trichloroethylene (TCE), and vinyl chloride into the water supply.
Unfortunately, many veterans and their families developed severe illnesses that have now been attributed to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune.
The wells containing the toxic chemicals that caused these dangerous drinking water conditions were not closed until 1987. As a result, service members and their families endured toxic exposure to these harmful chemicals for years without knowing their dangers.
Who Was Most Affected by Toxic Water at Camp Lejeune?
If you previously lived or worked at Camp Lejeune, you might have been exposed to toxic chemicals like vinyl chloride, benzene, or TCE. There’s even a chance you might have been exposed to other toxic chemicals supplied by Camp Lejeune’s water treatment plants that are equally as dangerous.
Those who served at Camp Lejeune from August 1, 1953 to December 31, 1987 may be eligible for health care benefits and compensation for related illnesses. This may include veterans’ and disability benefits, and reimbursement of medical costs for any Camp Lejeune linked health issues.
If you or a loved one previously resided at or worked on Camp Lejeune and have since developed health issues such as breast cancer, kidney cancer, bladder cancer, liver cancer, or any other condition caused by dangerous chemicals, like vinyl chloride, now is the time to seek justice. If a child was born with birth defects, they might be attributable to your child’s early exposure to dangerous chemicals caused by Camp Lejeune water contamination.
A personal injury lawyer can advise you about how the PACT Act applies to you and advise you of your legal options and how they can help you with potential litigation.
What Happened at Camp Lejeune?
Over several decades, service members and their families stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina were exposed to contaminated water.
Many scientists would recall Camp Lejeune as the worst public drinking water contamination in U.S. history. Camp Lejeune was founded in 1941, and by approximately 1953, the camp had its water treatment plant. It provided water to the base’s inhabitants.
How Camp Lejeune’s Water System Worked
The camp’s water treatment plant drew water from two primary sources: the New River and an underground aquifer. The Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune was said to be a hub of activity during the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. The Marine Corps assigned 500,000 service members or more there during those decades.
When Federal Officials First Knew of Camp Lejeune Contamination Issues
In the 1970s, the EPA mentioned that Camp Lejeune was a “major polluter” and improperly disposed of wastes from base activities. However, the Corps maintains that it performed waste disposal according to the standard practices of the time.
Sources of the Contaminated Water
While the truth of that is still under debate, there is no denying that the camp’s drinking water became contaminated with harmful chemicals. Records say the Corps dumped oil and industrial wastewater into the storm drains. On top of that, potentially radioactive materials were buried, including the carcasses of canines used in testing.
More questionable evidence was found when the daycare was located in a former malaria control shop where pesticides were stored and mixed. Records also indicate another potential and significant source of water contamination was a nearby dry-cleaning business that also participated in dumping their wastewater, laced with dry cleaning chemicals, into the storm drains.
Preliminary tests found that chemicals like Tetrachloroethylene, a suspected carcinogen, and other solvents widely used on the base to clean machinery were in the water supply. Yet the Marine Corps maintained that the EPA did not regulate the chemicals in question; this statement is only partially true. As mentioned before, the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery knew of these organic solvents and enforced regulations on the base.
Federal Officials Were Lax in Enforcing Safe Waste Disposal Protocol
The Bureau went on to identify safe disposal methods and noted the dangers of these chemicals and that they could contaminate water sources. Despite this information, the Marine Corps did not enforce these regulations, but it seems that unfolding events would force their hands. Military chemists began testing Camp Lejeune drinking water, suspecting new environmental rules.
After over a dozen water wells were tested, many of these wells came back with trace amounts of harmful chemicals. For reasons unknown, the Marine Corps claims not to have received those results until 1982, though personnel performed the tests in 1980. Despite the concerning evidence, the Marine Corps did nothing to investigate the source of contamination.
Grainger Labs Was Hired in 1982
In 1982, the Marine Corps hired an outside contractor, Grainger Laboratories of Raleigh, North Carolina, to test the water. Unfortunately, the test results shocked the chemists as the synthetic, organic cleaning solvents were contaminating the water of two of the largest living areas on the base: Hadnot Point and Tarawa Terrace. Moreover, the levels of these chemicals in the water were well above what federal drinking water standards would deem safe.
Officials at Grainger Labs repeatedly warned their clients of the dangers these chemicals pose to those using the water. Unfortunately, the warnings went unheeded as the military took no further action to mitigate the contamination or inform those using the water of the potential risks.
When Federal Officials Finally Closed Down Contaminated Water Sources
It wouldn’t be until 1985 that ten wells were shut down due to contamination, but by then, the neglect had done even more damage to the Marines and their families, who had cooked with, bathed, and consumed the contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune for over three decades.
Contaminants Found in the Water at Camp Lejeune
Despite officials’ attempts to try to downplay the true nature of the Camp Lejeune water contamination, reports indicated that tests found a degreaser known as trichloroethylene in:
- 1,440 parts per billion (ppb) at a Camp Lejeune hospital tap
- 1,148 ppb was found at an elementary school
- 18,900 ppb was found in a water well near Camp Lejeune
The current limit for such exposure is five ppb. In addition, there are reports of a fuel farm contamination event where fuel storage tanks leaked continuously for years, leading to contaminated drinking water conditions. Yet, how would service members know if they were exposed to contaminated water?
The Water Distribution Systems of Camp Lejeune
The water distribution systems of Camp Lejeune consisted of three treatment plants, Hadnot Point, Holcomb Boulevard, and Tarawa Terrace, which served different areas on the base. These water distribution plants supplied the majority of water to family housing units on the base and contained Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).
Primary Contaminated Treatment Plants at Camp Lejeune
There were eight different water distribution systems on base at the time that Camp Lejeune water contamination is thought to have occurred. The three primarily contaminated ones were:
- Hadnot Point: It began operating in 1942 and served Mainside Barracks, Hospital Point family housing, and housing at Midway Park, Paradise Point, and Berkeley Manor until 1972.
- Tarawa Terrace: It began operation in 1952 and shut down in 1987. It served areas like Tarawa Terrace housing, Knox Trailer Park.
- Holcomb Boulevard: It began operating in 1972 and served Midway Park, Paradise Point, Berkeley Manor, and Watkins Village.
Holcomb Boulevard was not considered to have had contaminated water. However, Hadnot Point supplied the water for Holcomb Boulevard’s service area from time to time. In addition, procedures forced the system to use the polluted water from Hadnot Point intermittently to supplement the Holcomb Boulevard supply during dry springs and summers.
Additional Water Treatment Plants That Were Potentially Contaminated
Some additional water treatment plants that may have additionally been sources of contamination include:
- Courthouse Bay
- Rifle Range
- Onslow Beach
- Montford Point/Camp Johnson
- New River
What Were the Main Sources of Contamination at Camp Lejeune?
While it may be challenging to sift through the reports and data to determine what exactly caused the Camp Lejeune water contamination issues, there are a few suspected main culprits:
ABC One-Hour Cleaners
This was a dry-cleaning facility located in the Midway Park Shopping Center. The business’s improper waste disposal caused chemicals to leak into groundwater and impact wells. Circumstances eventually sent the contaminated water in these wells to the treatment plant, impacting more people.
Lejeune Fuel Farm (Building 1115)
An on-base fuel facility that stored and supplied petroleum products to the camp. In 1980, officials discovered that a fuel tank at the facility leaked countless gallons of fuel, potentially contaminating the groundwater. This contamination event is described in a 1988 report mentioning a 15-foot layer of fuel floating on the water table a few feet below the surface.
Buried Storage Tanks
There are many reports of buried storage tanks at the camp leaking over time and contaminating the groundwater. These tanks stored various chemicals, including diesel, gasoline, degreasers, and cleaners.
What Chemicals Contaminated Water at Camp Lejeune?
To understand the nature of the exposure and the seriousness of the contamination, one must understand what chemicals impacted the water supply. The contaminated water at Camp Lejeune was found to have had a class of chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in it.
Two Chemicals Were Primarily Responsible for Camp Lejeune’s Water Problems
The two specific volatile organic compounds in the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune were trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE). However, there are potentially many more toxic substances discovered through various testing and research over the years since the Camp Lejeune water contamination incident.
All Primary Chemicals Identified in Polluted Water at Camp Lejeune
Below is a short list of the four main chemicals also found during Camp Lejeune’s water contamination testing:
This is a colorless liquid that has a sweet odor. It is used in crude oil to make gasoline, rubber, plastics, detergents, pesticides, and synthetic fibers.
This is a colorless gas with a sweet, chloroform-like odor. It is used to make PVC plastic and vinyl products. It is also formed during the breakdown of other chemicals like trichloroethylene and tetrachloroethylene.
This is a colorless liquid used in dry cleaning plants and machine cleaning. Those who encounter it should wear protective gear and limit exposure.
This is found in air, water, and soil. Additionally, workers can use it to clean or degrease items.
If you believe you or your loved ones were exposed to these chemicals, you may be wondering about the potential health effects. Many former residents or workers at Camp Lejeune have reported a variety of water contamination injuries since their time on base.
Side Effects Associated With Contaminated Water Exposure
Unfortunately, due to the widespread nature of the contamination event and the likely sources that led to the water contamination, it isn’t easy to ascertain the full extent of potential health effects. However, reports indicate that an estimated 1 million people who lived and worked at Camp Lejeune from 1957 to 1987 were potentially impacted by the terrible events at the Marine Corps base.
Primary Medical Conditions Attributable To Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
There are eight conditions in total that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has designated as “presumptive conditions” associated with contaminated water exposure at Camp Lejeune. The eight presumptive conditions are:
- Adult leukemia: This is a cancer that starts in the blood-forming cells of the bone marrow.
- Parkinson’s Disease: This is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement and is usually associated with tremors.
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes: These conditions develop when the body’s bone marrow doesn’t produce enough new blood cells.
- Bladder cancer: This is a cancer that starts in the bladder, the organ that stores urine. You’ll notice pain when urinating and blood in your urine when you’re suffering from bladder cancer.
- Kidney cancer: This is a cancer that starts in the kidney cells. Kidney cancer symptoms can include loss of appetite, tiredness, fever, chronic back pain, and blood in the urine.
- Liver cancer: This is a cancer that starts in the liver, but can spread to other organs. Symptoms of liver cancer are similar to the ones bladder or kidney cancer patients experience.
- Multiple myeloma: This is a cancer that starts in the plasma cells, a type of white blood cell in the bone marrow that helps your body fight infections by making antibodies.
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma: This is a cancer that starts in the cells of your lymphatic system and could include weight loss, fever, night sweats, and enlarged lymph nodes.
Additional Conditions Linked to Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune
These conditions are just a few of those linked to Camp Lejeune water contamination. Other conditions, such as ovarian cancer, congenital disabilities, miscarriages, cancer, stillbirths, and birth defects, may be associated with water contamination at Camp Lejeune.
Additional conditions like neurobehavioral effects and renal toxicity are more potential issues veterans as well as their dependents and civilian workers may face that also are attributable to the base’s water contamination.
Where To Turn If You Suffer From These Medical Conditions
If you or a loved one suffers any of the above-listed conditions or you had a baby born with birth defects and were stationed at Camp Lejeune during the years of contamination, you may be eligible for disability compensation benefits and health care through the VA.
You may also be able to file a potential Camp Lejeune lawsuit against those responsible for the Camp Lejeune water contamination.
Our Camp Lejeune attorneys here at The Solomon Law Group are standing by, eager to learn more details about your potential case. Contact us to schedule a free consultation so we can determine if the filing of a Camp Lejeune lawsuit is warranted and, if so, how you can expect that South Carolina legal process to unfold.
How To Apply for Compensation
Fortunately, there is some slight relief for those affected by the Camp Lejeune water contamination. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has set up a process to help those exposed to contaminated water apply for disability benefits and health care.
What To Know About the PACT Act and Camp Lejeune Justice Act
In August 2022, the Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022 was signed into law by the President. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 is included in the bill.
Under the PACT Act and Camp Lejeune Justice Act, service members and their families who developed health problems may be able to file a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit to request disability benefits and other compensation for their illnesses.
The combination of the PACT Act and Camp Lejeune Justice Act also allows those victims who were harmed in-utero to file a potential Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit.
Requirements To Take Legal Action in a Camp Lejeune Case
Laws like the Camp Lejeune Justice Act list specific qualifications and documentation needed to take legal action, such as filing a Camp Lejeune lawsuit.
Those requirements listed in the Camp Lejeune Justice Act vary depending on whether a service member or their dependent was harmed. Those requirements are:
VA Camp Lejeune Claim or Lawsuit Requirements for Service Members
According to the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, the requirements service members must meet to put forth a claim for benefits or file a Camp Lejeune lawsuit include:
- Your military records must show you served at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River for a minimum of 30 days between August 1953 and December 1987 while on active duty (or in the National Guard or Reserves).
- You must have a Condition on the Presumptive conditions list. Medical records from your doctor or other health care professional should state whether you have one or more of the eight health issues (diseases) on the list.
You may qualify for veterans’ or disability benefits and additional settlement funds under the PACT Act and Camp Lejeune Justice Act if you can meet these requirements.
VA Camp Lejeune Claim or Lawsuit Requirements for Family Members
Family members who have suffered illnesses or injuries attributable to the Camp Lejeune water contamination crisis are also eligible to take legal action.
The combination PACT Act and Camp Lejeune Justice Act requires claimants or plaintiffs to produce the following to take legal action:
- A document validating your relationship to the veteran who served for at least 30 days on active duty at Camp Lejeune (like a marriage license, birth certificate, or adoption papers).
- Records that you have an illness caused by contaminated water, the date a physician diagnosed, and your past or current treatments.
- You must furnish a document verifying that you lived at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River for 30 days between August 1953 and December 1987 (such as utility bills, base housing records, military orders, or tax forms).
- You must show that you have paid medical bills for your claimed condition.
Provided you can meet the requirements established above, you might have a valid claim.
Our Attorneys Can Assist With a Camp Lejeune Justice Act Case
Unfortunately, proceedings may not happen as service members and their families want. So, having an experienced Columbia law firm on your side as you navigate the Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit process can ensure the best possible outcome in your South Carolina case.
If your Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit gets denied, our personal injury lawyers at The Solomon Law Group will also be able to guide you through the review process.
We can assess whether you have a qualifying condition and, if so, help you take legal action in the Eastern District Court against the federal government and the Marine Corps base as allowed under the PACT Act and Camp Lejeune Justice Act. Schedule a free case evaluation today.
Pursuing a Wrongful Death Claim on Behalf of a Family Member
Camp Lejeune has been home to many Marine Corps veterans and their families. However, many Camp Lejeune veterans, their dependents, and civilian workers developed fatal illnesses due to the polluted water that resulted in their death.
You would have legal options if you’re one of the veterans exposed to Camp Lejeune water contamination or if you lost a loved one due to the situation.
Filing a wrongful death claim might be overwhelming. You’ll need to establish the reason for your loved one’s death and the cost of your damages and get help establishing their time as one of many Camp Lejeune residents.
Consult one of The Solomon Law Group’s Camp Lejeune lawyers for assistance with submitting your case as a South Carolina resident.
Seek Justice in Your Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit
As with most personal injury claims, filing a Camp Lejeune water lawsuit requires a statute of limitations. The PACT law provides a two-year window to file a claim that begins on the date the law was enacted. Unfortunately, the government entity involved could alter the statute.
While the passing of the PACT Act was a massive success for victims wanting to file a Camp Lejeune lawsuit against the government for water contamination on this Marine Corps base, it has not always been possible.
Statutes of Limitations That Previously Applied in Camp Lejeune Cases
For instance, North Carolina law calls for a ten-year statute of limitations for personal injury cases. So, any victims who fall outside of the two-year PACT Act window in North Carolina will not be able to file a claim.
In that case, it’s essential to seek legal assistance as soon as possible to ensure you don’t miss your opportunity to file a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit.
A South Carolina Camp Lejeune Contamination Lawyer Can Help
Even with available records, it can be challenging to establish the connection between medical problems and Camp Lejeune water contamination. If you have an attorney, they can process the case while you focus on your life and recovery.
How Our Attorneys Can Help You in Your Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Case
The lawyers at The Solomon Law Group can:
- File the Camp Lejeune cancer lawsuit on your behalf in Eastern District Court
- Help you understand which benefits you may be eligible for
- Gather medical evidence to support your case
- Handle all communications with the VA
- Ensure you meet filing deadlines in your Camp Lejeune cancer lawsuit case
- Represent you in court, if necessary
No one should bear the financial or emotional burdens of an injury caused by someone else’s negligence. However, if you were exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, you might be able to take legal action by filing a Camp Lejeune cancer lawsuit.
Request a free consultation with an experienced Camp Lejeune water contamination lawyer from our Columbia, SC law firm today. That free case review will allow a lawyer on our team to evaluate whether you have a potential Camp Lejeune lawsuit and, if so, give you an opportunity to learn more about your options for recovery.