USMC Knew for Decades There Was Contaminated Water at Camp Lejeune

marines standing in line

Posted on June 16, 2022

For more than 30 years from the mid-1950s to the mid-1980s, United States Marine Corps (USMC) officials were well aware that Camp Lejeune’s drinking water contained dangerous levels of toxic chemicals. Despite numerous water quality studies, leadership failed to report the dangers for decades. The contaminated drinking water was consumed by service personnel and their families while stationed at Lejeune and now thousands of diseases and illnesses are being reported. From cancer to infertility, potential injury claimants face horrific and life-altering diagnoses. 

 

We’ll take a closer look at the shocking facts surrounding these events and how veterans can get benefits to help them cope with ongoing illnesses related to the exposure they faced at Camp Lejeune. 

 

What Happened at Camp Lejeune? 

Camp Lejeune is a massive military training center encompassing some 246-square miles on the North Carolina coast. The base is home to many service members and their families within the Marine Expeditionary Force and other ancillary units. The miles of beaches make it an ideal location for amphibious training while two deep-water ports provide easy logistics for rapid deployments. 

 

Camp Lejeune Water Contamination

Between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, Marine personnel and their families at the base drank, took baths, brushed their teeth, did their dishes, washed their clothes, and otherwise used water contaminated with chemicals as high as 3,400 times safe levels. Chemicals such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), perchloroethylene (PCE) used in dry-cleaning, trichloroethylene (TCE) used as a degreaser, and more than 70 other toxic chemicals have since been identified in the drinking water. 

 

Timeline of Water Testing at Camp Lejeune

  • In 1980, Camp Lejeune started testing programs for certain chemicals mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • In 1981, reports were provided to Marine officials indicating the water was highly contaminated. Possible reasons for the contamination include solvents from nearby dry-cleaning operations, fuel leaks, or chemicals the military used to use to clean its equipment.
  • By 1982, the USMC hired a private company, Grainger Laboratories, to examine the drinking water issues. The company gave the Base Commander a report that the water was contaminated with a host of dangerous chemicals; however, the report was largely ignored. Instead, Camp Lejeune officials told the EPA there were no environmental issues.
  • By 1983, the State of North Carolina’s water supply agency became involved, requesting copies of the Grainger lab reports which were denied. That same year, Marine officials restricted the water testing services Grainger provided.
  • In 1984, the EPA contracted a different company to review the base’s water and found even more toxic chemicals. In response, base personnel slowly took the affected water wells offline. Reports show time and again that base leadership was made aware of the danger and was slow or even failed to act to protect the soldiers under their command.
  • As late as 1992, the USMC made reports which omitted the presence of certain dangerous chemicals found during testing from reports they issued to other government agencies.

 

Serious Diagnoses and Diseases For Hundreds of Thousands

For military personnel, their families, and even babies in utero, the consequences of the military knowingly downplaying the dangers of contaminated drinking water are severe. There are dozens of heartbreaking conditions that service members and their families have had to endure as a result of simply serving their country. 

 

The many diseases and conditions that have been identified so far possibly in connection with Camp Lejeune’s water include:

  • Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)
  • Bladder Cancer
  • Brain Cancer
  • Breast Cancer
  • Central Nervous System Cancer (CNS)
  • Cervical Cancer
  • Esophageal Cancer
  • Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Liver Cancer
  • Lung Cancer
  • Myelodysplastic Syndromes
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Ovarian Cancer
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Rectal Cancer
  • Cardiac defect
  • Epilepsy
  • Fatty Liver Disease (Hepatic Steatosis)
  • Female Infertility
  • Kidney Damage
  • Immune Disorders
  • Nerve Damage
  • Miscarriage
  • Neurobehavioral effects
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Renal Toxicity
  • Scleroderma

 

The U.S. The Department of Veterans Affairs has a lot of useful information regarding the Camp Lejeune water contamination. Veterans may be eligible for disability claims and compensation in relation to this incident but the process is daunting for many. If you’d like to talk to someone for free, we have veterans disability claims attorneys who know how tough the process can be but are here to guide you every step of the way.

 

Why Some Veterans May Be Hesitant to File a Claim

Even with so many horrific conditions occurring after Marines and their families were exposed to toxic drinking water, many are still hesitant to file a claim. We asked Marine combat veteran and Farah and Farah attorney Nick LaFountain why military personnel might be reluctant to file suit and, given his background as a Marine, why he thought it could be advantageous that they should.

 

Nick explained that “many military veterans never pursue benefits they may be entitled to because they think it will just get denied or it will take years to get approved. Others don’t pursue because they feel that they are not that injured/sick as compared to other veterans. It is advantageous to pursue these claims because they will receive medical care through the VA, potentially healing.”

 

There are numerous legislative initiatives on the books and in the hands of lawmakers to help make it easier for service members to get the benefits they deserve. Just a few of those related to Camp Lejeune include the Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act, the Janey Ensminger Act, and the proposed Camp Lejeune Justice Act, which will allow individuals to sue and recover damages for what they were exposed to at Camp Lejeune.

 

Not the First Time Farah & Farah Has Stood Up for Vets

Farah and Farah employs a large number of military veterans in our organization. Being headquartered in a Navy town in Jacksonville and having so many other offices located near military bases, our firm is deeply committed to serving those that served our country. One of the most high-profile lawsuits we’re continuing to work on involves taking up the fight for the many service members who have suffered hearing loss and tinnitus from failed 3M earplugs. Beyond the courtroom, we have partnered with so many worthwhile organizations whose sole mission is to help veterans. 

 

One of these is the Five STAR Veterans Center in Jacksonville. This facility serves as a safe place to help veterans receive vocational training and counseling while they get back on their feet. So many of our veterans are left with visible injuries from their service, while many more have invisible wounds that may never heal. We encourage everyone to thank a veteran and do whatever they can in their community to support our past and present men and women in uniform.

 

Stationed at Camp Lejeune Between 1953-1987? Let’s Talk About Your Case

If you were stationed, or were a baby in utero, for 30 days or more at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, and are suffering from any of the above, it’s time to talk to an attorney to understand the options you have. If you’d like to speak to someone who knows what you’re going through, we have lawyers who served our country and know veteran’s disability claims that can help walk you through the process. Schedule a conversation with an attorney now. 

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