San Antonio Personal Injury Lawyers
Camp LeJeune Water Contamination Lawsuit
For over 30 years, individuals living and working at the Marine Corps Base Camp LeJeune were exposed to toxic chemicals in their drinking water. Due to contaminated drinking water, military veterans, their family members, and other civilians that lived and worked at Camp LeJeune have suffered from a variety of severe health issues. Sadly, some health complications caused by the contaminated water are severe, like certain cancers and other life-threatening illnesses. Had more been done when the toxic chemicals were discovered, thousands of individuals would not have been suffering from the side effects caused by Camp LeJeune’s contaminated drinking water.
Thanks to the Camp LeJeune Justice Act of 2022, those affected by the Camp LeJeune water can now pursue legal action to receive financial compensation. If you lived at Camp LeJeune and were exposed to the toxic chemicals in the drinking water, you may be eligible to file a Camp LeJeune lawsuit.
The San Antonio personal injury attorneys at Janicek Law have over 20 years of experience and will fight for you and your family to receive the compensation you deserve. The illnesses and injuries caused by Camp LeJeune drinking water could have been avoided, and you deserve to recover damages for your suffering. To talk with one of our Camp LeJeune lawyers, call our office at 210-366-4949 or submit an online form.
What is Camp LeJeune?
Marine Corps Base Camp LeJeune is a United States military training base located in the eastern district of North Carolina. The base was built in 1941 and was named after Major General John A. LeJeune in 1944.
Throughout the years, Camp LeJeune has continued to train men and women for military action in the Pacific Islands, Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The military services and training that Marines receive at Camp LeJeune and their importance in our nation’s history are unfortunately overshadowed by the water contamination that occurred from 1953 until 1987.
Sadly, military and government officials were aware of the Camp LeJeune water contamination and ignored the warnings of the chemists and scientists. Military personnel and their families were needlessly exposed to toxic chemicals for 30 years that have affected their health to this day. This is why the Camp LeJeune Justice Act of 2022 is such a crucial piece of legislation. This act allows those affected to recover damages from their injuries. Like any other personal injury lawsuit, negligence led to countless individuals suffering from cancers and other illnesses. Just because the negligence was on behalf of the military and government officials doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to damages for your injuries. If you lived at Camp LeJeune and have suffered from cancer or other water contamination illnesses, you could be entitled to a Camp LeJeune settlement.
Camp LeJeune Water Contamination Timeline
Camp LeJeune currently houses 170,000 active duty members, dependents, retirees, and civilian employees. The base was built in 1941, and just a few short years later, the contaminated water began to seep into its water supply and affect its residents. The timeline of events surrounding the military base and its contaminated water are listed below.
In 1953, the Hadnot Point water treatment facility was constructed to provide the Camp LeJeune residents with clean drinking water. Unfortunately, the water was already contaminated by chemicals and hazardous solvents. Two other plants supplied contaminated water to Camp LeJeune – Tarawa Terrace and Holcomb Boulevard. It was later discovered that One Hour Dry Cleaner, a dry cleaner that opened across from Tarawa Terrace in 1953, was contaminating the drinking water with its dry cleaning chemicals. This year is critical in the Camp LeJeune timeline since it’s the first year of eligibility under the Camp LeJeune Justice Act of 2022. Anyone living or working at the military base as of August 1953 is eligible for compensation.
It’s estimated that between 20,000 to 30,000 gallons of oil leaked into the ground from Hadnot Point, which further contaminated the drinking water supplied to Camp LeJeune.
The drinking water at Camp LeJeune was tested for chemicals throughout 1980 and 1981 due to stricter EPA regulations. Even though the water test results showed traces of chemicals in 1981, the U.S. Marine Corps said they didn’t receive those results until 1982. At this time, it was known that the water supplied to Camp LeJeune was contaminated, yet the majority of the wells stayed open.
The Marines hired Grainger Laboratories in 1982 to test Camp LeJeune’s water further. They discovered that human carcinogens like Benzene, PEC (perchloroethylene), and TCE (trichloroethylene) were present in the water supplied by Hadnot Point. The chemists from Grainger Labs told the military base officials about the contaminants, but nothing was done, and the plants remained open.
In 1982, it was discovered that the Marine Corps Air Station New River, part of several bases close to Camp LeJeune, also had contaminated drinking water.
At this time, the government was aware that the drinking water supplied to Camp LeJeune was contaminated, but the extent of that contamination was still unknown. More tests were run on the drinking water by another company contracted by the EPA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These tests were performed on the individual wells at both Hadnot and Tarawa Terrace. The tests showed chemical concentration levels between 240 and 3,400 times higher than the levels safe for consumption. In fact, one chemical that was discovered during these tests is found in gasoline, but that well remained open until November 1984. After this testing round, the Marines notified North Carolina about the contaminated water at Camp LeJeune.
The wells that supplied contaminated water were finally shut down between the end of 1984 and 1985. A total of ten wells were closed due to contamination. However, while news of the water contamination was being reported, the base’s commanding general reassured residents that only low levels of contaminants were found. Unfortunately, this is the farthest thing from the truth. Chemists testing the wells found levels of chemicals higher than any scientist had discovered in a public water system.
Camp LeJeune was deemed a “Superfund” site by the EPA. Superfund sites are areas that have high levels of contamination and require extensive cleanup of the toxic substances. These sites fall under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980. The act states that those responsible must participate in the cleanup process or reimburse the cleanup costs.
In 2008, President George Bush signed a bill requiring an extensive investigation into the Camp LeJeune claims.
President Barack Obama signed The Camp LeJeune Families Act in 2012. This Act provides certain healthcare benefits to the military and their family members that suffered health complications due to the contaminated drinking water. Family members who qualify for health care benefits could also receive compensation through the Camp LeJeune Family Member Program (CLFMP).
Over 800 lawsuits were filed by Camp LeJeune veterans and residents through the Federal Tort Claims Act. Unfortunately, they were all dismissed since the statute of repose in North Carolina is ten years.
Those that filed lawsuits appealed the court’s decision, but they were all denied. Hundreds of families and military personnel were left with no compensation for the health problems that the Camp LeJeune water contamination caused.
What Chemicals Contaminated Camp LeJeune’s Water Supply?
Military personnel and their family members were exposed to harmful chemicals in the Camp LeJeune water supply for thirty years. Not only were they drinking the contaminated water, but they were also bathing in it and cooking with it too. The water being supplied by Hadnot Point and Tarawa Terrace was over 3,000 times higher than the EPA’s rating for safe exposure.
Below, we highlight some of the contaminants found in the water at Camp LeJeune and the dangers surrounding their exposure to them.
Upon further investigation in 2012, 12 pounds of mercury was discovered in the water at the Hadnot Point Treatment Plant. The source of the mercury is believed to have come from water pressure meters that were removed from the plant during the 1980s. Even the lowest level of mercury exposure can lead to health complications. Those suffering from mercury exposure may experience the following symptoms.
- Hearing impairment
- Speech impairment
- Muscle weakness
- Difficulty walking
- High blood pressure
- Nausea and vomiting
- Peripheral vision loss
- Lack of coordination
- Tingling and numbness in the hands and feet and around the mouth
- Memory loss
- Mental health issues like depression and anxiety
Mercury exposure is hazardous to pregnant women as they can pass the contaminant to the unborn child. Young children are at a higher risk of suffering extreme side effects related to mercury exposure due to their smaller lungs. If you or a loved one suffered from mercury poisoning at Camp LeJeune, you could be entitled to financial compensation. To discuss your case with a Camp LeJeune lawyer, call Janicek Law to schedule a free consultation.
Toluene is a colorless liquid in adhesives, paint, and metal cleaners. When exposed to room-temperature air, it can become a toxic vapor with a sweet scent. Individuals can become exposed to toluene by breathing in the vapor, swallowing it, or getting it on their skin. Those exposed toluene can develop liver cancer, esophageal cancer, bladder cancer, breast cancer, and renal toxicity.
Benzene is one of the many toxic chemicals the Camp LeJeune residents were exposed to. It’s considered a human carcinogen, which means it is made up of elements that can cause cancer. It’s used in many rubbers, lubricants, detergents, plastics, drugs, fibers, and pesticides. It appears clear or slightly yellow and is liquid when at room temperature. It smells similar to toluene, which has a sweet smell. Exposure to Benzene over a long period of time can cause multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and several types of leukemia.
Vinyl chloride is a colorless, flammable gas. It’s used in making vehicle upholstery, wire coatings, PVC pipes, and plastic kitchenware. High levels of vinyl chloride can cause various health issues like neurological problems and liver cancer.
Perchloroethylene (PCE) was the volatile organic compound that caused the most damage to the military personnel and their family members at Camp LeJeune. The levels of PCE were the highest out of the other toxic chemicals in the water, leading to many health issues and deaths among the Camp LeJeune victims.
To fully understand how much PCE was present in Camp LeJeune water, the EPA considers 5 ug/L of PCE dangerous. At the Tarawa Terrace Treatment Plant, 215 ug/L of PCE was discovered in the water, which is 43 times over the EPA’s level of safe exposure.
This chemical is used in dry cleaning and can affect those exposed through either touch, inhalation, or ingestion. Those exposed to PCE over a long period can suffer from liver cancer, kidney cancer, central nervous system depression, and more.
Another volatile organic compound present in the Camp LeJeune water was trichloroethylene (TCE). Along with PCE, it was the other contaminant found in high concentrations in the water. The chemical is commonly used in metal degreasing but is also present in wood finishes, adhesives, and paint and stain removers.
Like PCE, the EPA considers levels over 5 ug/L as unsafe. The water treatment plant at Hadnot Point documented 1,400 5 ug/L, 280 times the safe exposure level. Those exposed to TCE can suffer from many forms of cancer. Exposure to TCE is also extremely detrimental to pregnant women as the chemical can travel into the placenta and fetus. Birth defects like congenital heart defects are linked to TCE exposure during pregnancy.
Health Complications From Drinking Contaminated Water
As explained above, exposure to the chemicals in the water at Camp LeJeune can lead to various life-threatening health issues like cancer. Women that were pregnant while they lived at Camp LeJeune also risk passing the dangers of chemical exposure to their unborn child leading to birth defects.
The water at Camp LeJeune had a number of chemicals that could cause certain types of cancer. Exposure to human carcinogens, like benzene, and volatile organic compounds, like TCE and PCE, over long periods of time can lead to an increased risk of developing cancer. The most common types of cancer that have been linked to the Camp LeJeune water supply are:
- Lung cancer
- Liver cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Breast cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Prostate cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Myelodysplastic syndrome
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
Non-Cancer Health Issues
In addition to cancer, exposure to the contaminated drinking water at Camp LeJeune caused other health issues. Scientific and medical evidence has found that the following health problems have been linked to contamination at Camp LeJeune.
- Neurological issues and mental disorders
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Aplastic anemia
- Fatty liver disease
- Cardiac conditions
- Kidney damage/failure
- ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)
- Hepatic steatosis
- Myelodysplastic syndrome
Sadly, many Camp LeJeune victims were children. Pregnant women at Camp LeJeune unknowingly shared their exposure to the toxic chemicals from contaminated water with their unborn children. A study by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) found that children born to exposed mothers at Camp Lejeune were four times more likely to suffer from birth defects. The children that were part of the study were born to women who either lived or worked at Camp LeJeune during the height of the water contamination, 1968-1985.
Unborn babies exposed to contaminated water also have a higher risk of developing childhood cancers and neural tube defects. The water at Camp LeJeune water contamination caused the following cancers and birth defects in children due to prenatal exposure:
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Spina bifida (neural tube defect)
- Anencephaly (neural tube defect)
- Oral cleft defects
- Various childhood cancers
- Liver diseases
In 2015, a special committee was formed by the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide guidance on what particular health conditions were related to the Camp LeJeune water contamination. The experts found an increased number of neural tube birth defects that may have been caused by in-utero exposure to PCE and TCE. The 2015 committee results confirmed those found by the ATSDR, therefore, strengthening the link between the Camp LeJeune water contamination and birth defects.
If your mother worked or lived at Camp LeJeune and you have been diagnosed with a water contamination-related illness, you could file a Camp LeJeune claim.
Possible Symptoms From Drinking Contaminated Water
Those that were exposed to contaminated water at Camp LeJeune could experience the following symptoms:
- Fatigue/weakness that won’t go away
- Fever or chills
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Unexplained weight loss
- Enlarged liver or spleen
- Frequent nose bleeds
- Constant infections
- Bleeding or bruising easily
- Small red spots (petechiae)
Who Can File a Camp LeJeune Water Contamination Lawsuit?
In order to be eligible to file a Camp LeJeune lawsuit, Marine Corps veterans and their family members must meet the following requirements:
- You were diagnosed with one of the above medical conditions;
- You were not dishonorably discharged;
- You served at or were based at the Marine Corps Base Camp LeJeune or Marine Corps Air Station New River for 30 days between 1953 to 1987; and
- You are a family member of military personnel stationed at Camp LeJeune or Air Station New River for 30 days between 1953 and 1987.
You could be entitled to a Camp LeJeune settlement if you meet the above criteria. If you believe you have the grounds to file a Camp LeJeune lawsuit, call the attorneys at Janicek Law today to schedule an appointment.
What is the Camp LeJeune Justice Act of 2022?
The Camp LeJeune Justice Act of 2022 made it possible for the military and their family members to sue for damages related to the contaminated Camp LeJeune water supply. Before this act, no one was allowed to pursue Camp LeJeune litigation for recovering damages and financial compensation. Those who can file Camp LeJeune lawsuits are veterans and their family members and citizens exposed to the chemicals in the Camp LeJeune water.
Once the Senate approved the bill, President Joe Biden signed the bill into law in August of 2022. The Camp LeJeune Justice Act was part of a larger bill known as the PACT Act, the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxins Act. The PACT Act expands health care benefits, disability, and other services to those exposed to harsh chemicals and burn pits during their military career. The act also established a fund for the Camp LeJeune cleanup.
If you or a family member suffered the any of the aforementioned side effects from Camp LeJeune water contamination, you can pursue legal action. Even if your family member died from an illness caused by the Camp Lejeune water, you could still file a lawsuit according to the Camp LeJeune Justice Act of 2022.
Water Contamination Damages
Veterans of the Marine Corps and their family members could receive compensation for illnesses and injuries caused by contaminated water at the Marine Corps Air Station New River and Camp LeJeune. You could obtain financial compensation for the following types of damages:
- Medical expenses;
- Lost wages and incomes;
- Physical pain and suffering;
- Emotional distress;
- Loss of future earning capacity;
- Loss of enjoyment of life;
- Loss of consortium;
- Permanent disability and/or disease.
To discuss your legal options with one of our Camp LeJeune lawyers, contact Janicek Law today.
Camp LeJeune Lawsuit Settlement Amounts
To determine Camp LeJeune settlement amounts, several factors will be considered. Those suffering from much more severe illnesses will most likely receive a higher Camp LeJeune settlement amount than those suffering from minor illnesses.
Other factors that may affect the Camp LeJeune settlement amounts include:
- Income lost due to being unable to return to work because of the condition;
- How long was the person exposed;
- Estimated costs of medical expenses;
- Other financial damages related to the illness; and
- Funeral and burial expenses if the disease or injury led to wrongful death.
The Camp LeJeune lawsuits are still significantly increasing. As of May 2023, an estimated 60,000 Camp LeJeune claims have been filed.
Call San Antonio Personal Injury Lawyers at Janicek Law Today
Even though the Camp LeJeune water contamination happened years ago, you can still file a lawsuit related to the injuries or illnesses caused by the toxic substances. Thousands of people are still living with the effects caused by the Camp LeJeune water contamination, and they’re all entitled to compensation. If you have questions about pursuing a Camp LeJeune lawsuit, you can schedule a free initial consultation with one of the experienced attorneys at Janicek Law. Contact our law office by calling 210-366-4949 or submitting an online form.