Camp Lejeune Water Contamination

FREE CASE REVIEW

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Between the years 1953 and 1987, the water supply at Marine Corps military base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina was contaminated by chemicals. During this time, thousands of people were exposed to chemical concentrations between 250 and 3,000 times the amount allowable by safety standards.

In 1974, a base order was issued that warned about the potential for contamination of the water if chemicals weren’t properly disposed of. Despite this, contamination of the water continued for another thirteen years.

It took the Marine Corps 14 years following the closure of the contaminated Camp Lejeune wells to even begin notifying former residents of the base that they had been exposed to large amounts of contaminated water during the time they lived on base. It took another nine years before the Marines really put an effort into notifying anyone who might have come into contact with the contaminated water.

Thousands of people were exposed to the contaminated water and many people got sick and some even died due to health complications caused by the water. A well-known case is that of Janey Ensminger, a girl who died of leukemia at the age of 9 whose father blamed her death on the contaminated water and lobbied Congress for a bill that would require the VA to cover the medical bills for those impacted by the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.

 

If you or a loved one has developed cancer or another health condition and were stationed at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987, you may have a case. It’s estimated that upwards of 750,000 people were exposed to the contaminated water and many didn’t find out about it from the Marines but instead found out when the contamination made the news. Don’t hesitate to contact Farah & Farah for a free consultation. We want to fight for the justice and compensation that you deserve.

What Is Camp Lejeune?

Camp Lejeune is a military base located in Jacksonville, North Carolina. It’s used by the United States Marines as a training facility. The base was first established in 1942 and has been used as a location for the Marines’ boot camp ever since. It’s best known for its water contamination problems that occurred in the 50s through the 80s and for getting damaged by Hurricane Florence in 2018.

Camp Lejeune Location

Camp Lejeune is located near Jacksonville, North Carolina, which is the 14th-largest city in the state and is the county seat of Onslow County. The city is in the southeastern part of North Carolina, located near the Atlantic coast. Camp Lejeune itself is located directly on the Atlantic ocean so that it has 11 miles of beach. This beach is used by the Marines for amphibious assault training.

NC Welcome Sign

Camp Lejeune History

Construction began on Camp Lejeune in 1941. As the base was built, the headquarters for it moved location several times until 1942, when it was moved to Hadnot Point. The base was then officially named Camp Lejeune after World War I general John A. Lejeune, who had been the 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps.

 

The biggest event in Camp Lejeune’s history is the 1953-1987 water contamination, but two other notable events did occur. The first was a collision between two helicopters in 1996 during a joint U.S.-British training exercise that resulted in two injuries and fourteen deaths. The second was $3.6 billion worth of repairs needed following Hurricane Florence hitting the base in 2018.

Camp Lejeune Water Contamination

Between 1953 and 1987, the residents of Camp Lejeune were exposed to high levels of chemicals in the water that they used for everything from drinking and cooking to bathing. The level of toxins in Camp Lejeune’s water supply ranged from between 240 times what safety standards permitted to 3,000 times what safety standards permitted.

What Caused the Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune?

The water contamination came from solvents that were either buried or dumped close to the wells on base. The chemicals from those solvents then seeped into the water in the wells, which were used by those living on base for everything from drinking to bathing. In 1974, there was a base order issued that solvents had to be disposed of safely, simultaneously warning that if solvents weren’t disposed of properly, the water could be contaminated. Despite this, for years afterwards, solvents were still dumped too close to the wells, to the point where the wells were actually shut down in the 1980s, but were later illegally brought back online.

What Chemicals Were in the Water?

The chemicals that were found in the water at Camp Lejeune include:

Chemical Sources

Benzene is a chemical that is often used to make other chemicals that are then used in the production of things like plastic, resin, synthetic fibers, and nylon. PCE is a chemical used in degreasing metal and also in dry cleaning, while TCE is used to clean off metal parts. Both can become VC over time because they can degrade when they’re in groundwater.

 

These chemicals came from local sources such as an off-base dry cleaning company as well as chemicals seeping into the water supply from leaks in chemical storage tanks and from disposed-of waste.

Water contamination sign and health warning

Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Health Problems

The water contamination has been linked to multiple cancers. The Janey Ensminger Act lists fifteen health ailments that have been linked to the Camp Lejeune water contamination for which the Department of Veterans Affairs is required by the Janey Ensminger Act to pay for the medical costs. These fifteen ailments are:

Who Can Get VA Disability Benefits?

People who are eligible for disability benefits from the VA due to the Camp Lejeune water contamination are those who:

Anyone who meets the above two criteria, including veterans, reservists, and guardsmen, can claim disability benefits from the VA for any of the following conditions:

Those who meet the criteria and have one of the above health ailments may be eligible for both compensation from the VA as well as health benefits. Those who have any other condition of the fifteen listed in the Janey Ensminger Act may only be eligible for health coverage. The VA only offers presumptive coverage for the above conditions because of the prevalence of medical evidence connecting them to the Camp Lejeune water contamination.

How to Apply for VA Benefits

If you are eligible for benefits from the VA, you can apply online by filing a claim here: https://www.va.gov/disability/how-to-file-claim/. Alternatively, you can go into any regional VA office or enlist the assistance of a Veterans service officer (VSO) or another authorized representative of the VA.

VA Denial of Benefits

Unfortunately, some who were harmed by the Camp Lejeune water contamination were denied benefits when they applied for them from the VA. Veterans who had their claims denied claimed that the doctors reviewing their cases weren’t qualified to do so. CBS News investigated and confirmed this, finding that in many cases, the doctors reviewing cases were in the field of general or preventative medicine and were not experts in the specific diseases that were caused by exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.

Veterans who had numerous doctors confirm that their cancer or other condition was caused by Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water still had their claims denied by the VA. Many believed that the VA’s policy was to always deny wherever possible and that they believed their general advisor instead of teams of experts. For many veterans who were exposed to the contaminated water, it isn’t just about the money, which would help to cover their medical costs, but also about accountability. The military knowingly exposed hundreds of thousands of people to contaminated water and then refused to take responsibility for that.

On top of that, the VA has thousands of cases still pending. Veterans suffering from deadly health conditions have to wait months or years to hear back. There are currently 2,443 cases that are still pending and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made that worse.

What Is the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022?

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 is pending legislation that would help victims of the Camp Lejeune water contamination seek justice and get their medical bills covered. Although introduced by a Democratic member of Congress, the bill has bipartisan support and was introduced as new legislation in January of 2022. It has already passed in the House of Representatives as a part of the Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022, which is meant to support military service members. As of May, 2022 the bill still needs to pass in the Senate and then be signed into law by President Biden.

For Camp Lejeune survivors, the bill would allow them to file a claim in federal court instead of having to file a claim through the VA. This would help those who have had their claims denied by the VA or who are still waiting as one of the large backlog of cases the VA still has yet to review. It’s not just those who suffered directly who may be eligible for compensation and benefits as well. Loved ones of those who lived or served at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 can also apply on their behalf.

Janey Ensminger Act

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 is not the first legislation to be passed in order to benefit survivors of the Camp Lejeune water contamination. President Obama signed the Janey Ensminger Act into law in 2012 after successful lobbying by Master Sergeant Jerry Ensminger, a retired Marine whose daughter died of leukemia at the age of nine. Master Sergeant Ensminger believed that her leukemia was caused by exposure to the contaminated water when the Ensminger family was stationed at Camp Lejeune. Janey Ensminger was born in 1976 at Camp Lejeune and was the only child in the family’s known history to develop a cancer, which ruled out any genetic predisposition for it. Janey Ensminger was diagnosed with leukemia in 1983 and died of it two years later.

The purpose of the Janey Ensminger Act was to provide health care to those who contracted a cancer or other health ailment as a result of exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. However, this legislation wasn’t enough because the claims had to go through the VA and many of them were either delayed or denied.

Camp Lejeune Lawsuits

If the Camp Lejeune Justice Act passes in 2022, then victims of the water contamination will be able to file lawsuits in federal court. However, in order to do so, you must be eligible. You must be able to prove that you were at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days in the affected areas of the base sometime between the years 1953 and 1987. You also must have developed one of the cancers or health ailments that have been linked to the water contamination. Those diseases are:

If a claim with the VA was successfully filed, then the amount that you would be eligible to receive from a lawsuit filed in federal court would be less. A lawsuit could result in both coverage for medical bills as well as compensation for lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. This means that even if your claim with the VA was successful, the overall monetary reward could be less because of what the VA has already paid out for medical expenses, but does not mean that you are ineligible for a lawsuit in federal court altogether.

Should I Consider a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit?

If you or a loved one has been exposed to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune and has developed one of the eligible health conditions as a result, you may have a case. It’s important to discuss your options with a lawyer familiar with military lawsuits and dealing with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Farah & Farah’s experienced attorneys have the experience you need with lawsuits against the VA in support of military veterans who have suffered due to denied claims or delayed claim responses from the VA. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case. We’d like to fight for the justice and compensation that you deserve. You won’t have to pay a thing unless your case is successful.

Eddie Farah and Chuck Farah meeting with attorney Rick Staggard
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.