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Camp Lejeune's decades-long toxic contamination legacy

Established in 1941 and located in Jacksonville, North Carolina, Camp Lejeune is a 246-square-mile U.S. Marine Corps military training facility that is still operational today. Nevertheless, the military base has a grim legacy of water contamination.

In 1953, the drinking water supplied by two of the eight distribution plants at the installation became contaminated with volatile organic compounds, specifically trichloroethylene, benzene, vinyl chloride, and perchloroethylene.

The water source at Hadnot Point, which began operating in 1942, serving the mainside barracks, the Hospital Point family housing, and the family housing at Midway Park, Paradise Point, and Berkeley Manor until 1972, had a trichloroethylene level of 1,400 ppb when the maximum permissible limit is only 5 ppb. The water source at Tarawa Terrace, which began operating in 1952, serving the family housing with the same name and the Knox trailer park until 1987, had a perchloroethylene concentration of 215 ppb when the safe limit is also 5 ppb.

Perhaps the most significant source of toxic water contamination at Camp Lejeune was the nearby dry-cleaning firm ABC One-Hour Cleaners, which encompassed a site of approximately one acre. The dry-cleaning firm was located roughly two miles southeast of the military base. Because of the improper disposal of industrial solvents, ABC One-Hour Cleaners ended up polluting the groundwater of Camp Lejeune, unwittingly endangering the health of everyone stationed there. More than one million people were exposed to toxic chemicals until 1987, which can now result in cancer, birth defects, and other serious health issues.

Despite many water quality studies, leadership failed to report the dangers of drinking water at Camp Lejeune for decades. It was only in 1982 that the U.S. Marine Corps found volatile organic compounds lurking in the drinking water at the military base. Service members and their families drank, took baths, brushed their teeth, did their dishes, and washed their clothes with water contaminated with chemicals as high as 3,400 times the safe levels. Over 70 other toxic chemicals have since been identified in the drinking water, in addition to volatile organic compounds.

The following is a timeline of the water testing performed at Camp Lejeune during the last century:

  • In 1980, the leadership of Camp Lejeune started testing programs for chemicals mandated by the EPA.
  • In 1981, reports were provided to officials indicating that drinking water was heavily contaminated. Several possible reasons for the contamination include solvents from nearby dry-cleaning operations, fuel leaks, and toxic chemicals the military would use to clean weapons and equipment.
  • By 1982, the U.S. Marine Corps hired a private company, Grainger Laboratories, to investigate the drinking water problem. The company gave the Base Commander a report stating that the water was contaminated with many dangerous chemicals, but the report was ignored. Camp Lejeune officials told the EPA there were no environmental issues.
  • By 1983, North Carolina's water supply agency became involved, requesting copies of the Grainger laboratory reports, which were denied. The same year, Marine officials restricted the water testing services Grainger Laboratories provided.
  • In 1984, the EPA contracted another company to review the military base's water and found even more harmful chemicals. In response, the military base's personnel slowly took the affected water wells offline. Reports show that base leadership was made aware of the dangers and was slow or even failed to act to protect the service members under their command.
  • As late as 1992, the U.S. Marine Corps made reports which omitted the existence of dangerous chemicals detected during testing from reports they issued to other government agencies.

Even with so many awful health conditions developing after veterans and their families were exposed to toxic drinking water, many are hesitant to file a claim. Many veterans never pursue the benefits they might be entitled to because they think their claim will be denied or it will take years to get approved. Others do not file a Camp Lejeune water contamination claim because they feel that they are not as ill as other veterans. However, it is advantageous to pursue a claim, both under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act and with the VA, to receive disability compensation, as veterans can receive the healthcare they deserve and money that can help with medical expenses.

If you are a Camp Lejeune veteran or a family member of one who spent time at the military base while the drinking water was toxic and now struggle with a disease, we encourage you to contact Atraxia Law, as our team of professionals can easily help you determine whether you are entitled to financial compensation. Because we understand how physically and emotionally draining suffering from a serious health problem can be, we will go to great lengths to simplify the process of assessing your case for you, which will mostly take place over the phone.

File your Camp Lejeune toxic water claim with our expert assistance

With over 35 years of experience in evaluating toxic exposure claims, our expert team is ready to help you find out whether you are eligible to file a Camp Lejeune water contamination claim. The only documents we will need to review your case are your military records or evidence of your stay at the military base and your medical records. If you are entitled to financial compensation, we will put you in touch with a reliable attorney.