Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit – August 2022 Update
MOST RECENT UPDATES
August 10th, 2022: Camp Lejeune Justice Act Signed into Law by President Biden
President Joe Biden has signed the PACT Act, the bill which contains the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. Biden called the signing of this bill the “most significant law our nation has ever passed to help veterans who were exposed to toxic substances.” For more than three decades, veterans, their families, and others who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 were exposed to toxic chemicals in the water supply. Many people who were present at Camp Lejeune and were exposed to the water by drinking, cooking, and bathing have developed serious conditions such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, kidney disease birth defects, miscarriage’s, neurological issues, cardiac problems, and many other serious health concerns. These individuals can now begin the process of filing a civil claim and a lawsuit in federal court to receive a financial settlement.
August 2nd, 2022: PACT ACT CLEARS SENATE – HEADS TO THE PRESIDENT
Today, the United States Congress passed the long-awaited “Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (PACT) Act.” The bill will expand health care benefits for veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits and contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. It will also allow for veterans, family members, and anyone who was present at Camp Lejeune for more than 30 days between 1953-1987 to file a claim for financial compensation. The bill passed the Senate 86-11 and will head to President Biden’s desk, once signed it will become law. In a White House statement, Biden expressed his support for the bill.
Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Background Information
From 1953-1987 the United States Marine Corps (USMC) training facility at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina exposed service members, their families, and civilian workers to contaminated drinking, cooking, and bathing water.
Industrial waste, pesticides, solvents, and other chemicals were buried in the ground or dumped into storm drains. These toxins leeched into the water supply and have been linked to cancer, birth defects, miscarriages, and other health problems. In many cases, the chemical concentrations were thousands of times higher than safe levels. The United States government knew about the contamination and failed to act.
It is estimated that more than one million civilian workers, military service members, and their families may have been exposed to the contaminated water supply. Victims may now be eligible to receive lump sum financial settlements under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022.
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Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit Lawyers
As early as 1953 the water supply at Camp Lejeune became contaminated. Hazardous chemicals and volatile compounds poisoned the water supply for more than 30 years. These toxins filtered into the groundwater from junkyards, fuel supplies, and a dry cleaner located near the base.
It wasn’t until 1982 that the military and the U.S. Government discovered the contamination. Cancer causing toxins such as trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), and vinyl chloride (VC) were detected in the water used for drinking, cooking, and bathing. More than 1 million civilian workers, military personnel, and their families were exposed to what some scientists call the largest water contamination disaster in the nation’s history.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 is a bill in Congress which allows victims of water contamination at Camp Lejeune to file lawsuits in federal court to recover a financial settlement for damages. The bill will become law once signed by the President.
Call King Law at (585) 535-9114 or fill out the form on this page to get started on your claim.
What Caused the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination?
Beginning in the early 1980’s it was discovered that several water supplies at the Camp Lejeune Marine base became contaminated with toxic chemicals. As early as the opening of Camp Lejeune in 1942, dangerous industrial compounds began to seep into the water systems supplied by Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point water-treatment plants. These plants served enlisted-family housing, barracks, administrative offices, schools, and recreational areas, and the hospital.
Water from the Tarawa Terrace water treatment plant, which began operation in 1952, was primarily contaminated by the waste disposal practices at ABC One-Hour Cleaners, an off-base dry cleaning establishment. This plant provided water to:
- Tarawa Terrace family housing
- Knox trailer park
The Tarawa Terrace plant was shut down in 1987.
Water from the Hadnot Point water treatment plant, established during the construction of Camp Lejeune in 1942, was contaminated primarily by leaking underground storage tanks, industrial waste, and other disposal sites. More than 800,000 gallons of fuel may have leaked in the ground. This plant generally served:
- Mainside barracks
- Hospital Point family housing
- Family housing at Midway Park, Paradise Point, and Berkeley Manor until June 1972
Much of the contamination came from the Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point water treatment plants. Anyone who used the water for drinking, bathing, cooking, and even swimming, was potentially exposed. Most of the contaminated wells were shut down in 1985 when cleanup efforts began.
What chemicals were in the water at Camp Lejeune?
The water supply at Camp Lejeune was contaminated by hazardous chemicals, volatile organic compounds, and other dangerous toxins such as fuel, oil, and degreasers for over 30 years.
Numerous studies have been done by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease (ATSDR) that link exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune to many diseases, including several types of cancer.
The primary chemicals found in the water were:
- Tetrachloroethylene (PCE)
- Trichloroethylene (TCE)
- Vinyl chloride
- DCE (trans-1,2-dichloroethylene)
Former Marines and their families who lived in Tarawa Terrace family housing between 1957 and 1987 were exposed to drinking water contaminated with the dry-cleaning solvent tetrachloroethylene (PCE). Levels of PCE in the drinking water during this period were 43 times higher than the amount currently allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Studies suggest a link between exposure to PCE for extended periods may lead to an increased risk of illnesses, including bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or multiple myeloma.
The Hadnot point plant, mostly contaminated by the dumping and burial of volatile chemical compounds, was found to have TCE (trichloroethylene) as the main contaminant. TCE is used primarily to make refrigerants and other hydrofluorocarbons, as well as a degreasing solvent for metal equipment. Maximum TCE level detected in drinking water was 1,400 parts per billion (ppb) in May 1982. For comparison, this is 280 times higher than the current limit for TCE in drinking water of 5 ppb. Kidney cancer is caused by prolonged exposure to trichloroethylene and some studies also suggest an increased risk of liver cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Vinyl chloride is a known carcinogen that is used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes, plastic kitchen utensils, vehicle upholstery and wire coatings. Prolonged exposure to vinyl chloride increases the risk of hepatic angiosarcoma, a rare form of liver cancer, as well as lymphoma, leukemia, brain cancer and lung cancer. Exposure to Vinyl chloride at Camp Lejuene is tied to the Hadnot point plant.
Benzene is primarily used to create plastics, resins, synthetic fibers and nylon. Long-term exposure to benzene impacts the blood and is linked to cancers including leukemia and other cancers of the blood-forming organs. Benzene was one of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that was found at the Hadnot point plant.
DCE (trans 1,2-dichloroethylene)
In addition to TCE, the Hadnot Point plant also detected the contaminant of DCE (trans 1,2-dichloroethylene). The maximum amount of DCE detected was 407 ppb in January 1985. The current standard for safe drinking water for DCE is 7 ppb. Unfortunately, there have not been sufficient studies to determine the carcinogenicity of DCE.
Presumptive Illnesses and Health Issues Caused by Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
Prolonged and recurring exposure to the chemicals of tetrachloroethylene (PCE), trichloroethylene (TCE), vinyl chloride and benzene through the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune is tied to a number of conditions. These conditions include various types of cancer, birth defects, infertility and other diseases. A list of presumptive conditions related to the water contamination at Camp Lejeune was made available by the Department of Veteran Affairs in 2012. These conditions include:
- Adult leukemia
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
Additional diseases connected with the Camp Lejeune water contamination include:
- Birth defects (including underdeveloped organs)
- Breast cancer
- Cardiac Defect
- Cervical cancer
- Esophageal Cancer
- Fatty Liver Disease
- Liver disease
- Lung cancer
- Myelodysplastic Syndrome
- Neurological Issues
- Ovarian cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Renal Toxity
Water Contamination Dates
The Marine Corps military base and training facility of Camp Lejeune has an over 80 year history. Listed below is the timeline since the start of the water contamination to the present day.
1942 | Camp Lejeune Opens
In April of 1941 congress approved the construction of the military base. The base opened in 1942 and was named the Marine Barracks Camp Lejeune to honor the 13th Commandant and Commanding General of the 2nd Army Division in World War I, Major General John A. Lejeune.
1953 | Water supplies begin to be contaminated at Hadnot Point
An off-base dry cleaner, ABC One Hour Drycleaner opens and begins to dump waste directly across the street from Tarawa Terrace. By August of 1953, water was contaminated with toxic chemicals. This is the point in which the eligibility period begins under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022.
1982 | Military discovers contamination
In May of 1982, maximum TCE levels were detected at Hadnot Point. PCE, DCE, vinyl chloride and benzene are also detected. The sources of contamination were leaking underground storage tanks and waste disposal sites.
1985 | Water wells and supply plants begin to be shut down
Almost 3 years later, the most contaminated wells at Hadnot Point were shut down in February of 1985. Maximum PCE levels at Tarawa Terrace are detected at this time with the most contaminated wells also shutting down.
2012 | Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012
In 2012, the Camp Lejeune Families Act was passed that provides free healthcare for certain conditions to Veterans who served at least 30 days at Camp Lejeune from August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987. Veterans must also have developed one of the eight presumptive illnesses including leukemia, aplastic anemia, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or Parkinson’s disease.
2022 | Camp Lejeune Justice Act is passed by the Senate
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 was passed by the United States Senate on June 16, 2022. This bill received bipartisan support and would provide former residents, veterans, civilians and their families the ability to file a lawsuit in federal court to recover a financial settlement for damages. The bill will become law once signed by the President.
Settlement Amounts and Payouts for Camp Lejeune
To be eligible for a settlement, a person must have lived, worked, served, or have been present at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 cumulative days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 and developed some type of harm (such as cancer or other conditions) due to the base’s contaminated water. Unborn children whose mother served, lived, or worked at the base while she was carrying the child may also be eligible.
It will take some time until anyone is certain what the amount of the settlements will be since no cases have been filed yet. Many factors are at play including the type and severity of harm you suffered, your time spent on base, and more. Lawsuit settlements may also cover pain and suffering, lost income, medical bills, and more.
We expect some settlements of several hundred thousand dollars. In general, court settlements reflect actual economic loss, (like time missed from work) and pain and suffering. Pain and suffering can be actual pain or things like mental anguish, uncertainty and fear. We have no doubt that the serious diseases caused by the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune have caused tremendous pain and suffering to all those affected. One initial concern was the amount of money the government will allocate to the settlement fund. There is no settlement fund in this case. The federal government has made any settlement “mandatory spending”, as opposed to discretionary spending.
It is very difficult to assess the value of a victim’s pain and suffering, especially in cases that involve serious medical conditions, like those caused by the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. One way that lawyers estimate case values is by looking at what other cases have settled for with similar injuries.
We expect that the law will give claimants two years to file a lawsuit or claim. We expect that a Federal Judge will preside an organized litigation. That process is designed to make the exchange of information between the parties more efficient. The exchange of information in a legal matter is sometimes called discovery. After discovery the government and lawyer for the victims will write several briefs and memorandums to the presiding Judge about how the law should be interpreted. This process is called motions. Following discovery and motions we expect one or more Bellwether Trials. Despite some claims, this is not a multidistrict litigation. In fact, by definition this is a single district litigation. A Bellwether trial is the first trial in a an organized litigation. It is used so that both sides can test the issues, and most importantly assess the potential value in all of the other claims. Typically a jury will return a verdict in a Bellwether trial and that will help set the value for other similar cases. Following a Bellwether trial, the parties will attempt to value the remaining cases and resolve them with settlements acceptable to both sides.
How to File a Claim
All claims will need to be filed in the United States Federal Court. A King Law attorney will handle your case by a contingency agreement, meaning that you will not owe anything unless you are awarded compensation. It is expected that there will be a two-year window once the bill becomes law in which claimants must file a lawsuit in Federal Court.
If you are already receiving compensation through the VA due to your exposure to toxic water at Camp Lejeune, you are still eligible to file a lawsuit under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. You will NOT risk losing your current benefits.
If you or someone you know lived, worked, or was otherwise present at Camp Lejeune for more than 30 days between 1953 and 1987 call us at 585-270-8882 for a free consultation and case analysis.
Wherever you are – we’ll be there
“If you live in the lower 48 states and have a qualifying claim, call me and I will personally meet with you at your home to discuss your case.” –Robert King
Call Robert King at (585) 535-9114 to get started.