Written By: Robert King, Esq.
Legal Review By: Mike Stag, Esq.
The Fort Ord Water Contamination Lawsuit is an active lawsuit
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Fort Ord Lawsuit | Water Contamination Lawsuit Overview

Fort Ord, located off of the Monterey Bay of California, is a former US Army base that has succumbed to contamination leading to toxic levels of exposure to environmental contaminants for many individuals who have lived or worked at and around Fort Ord. Built in 1917, Fort Ord was one of the largest light infantry bases in the US until being shuttered in 1997 due to Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) action. While some parts of the base are operational under limited army presence, Fort Ord does not station any active Army divisions. However, environmental information has revealed the land is severely contaminated with toxic substances, including trichloroethylene (TCE), per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and asbestos. During periods of rainfall, these chemicals would seep into underground water reserves, from which drinking water is drawn. These chemicals have contaminated the Fort Ord water supply to potentially dangerous degrees. This contamination at Fort Ord forced the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to place Fort Ord on the Superfund Program’s National Priority List in 1990, a list of the most contaminated locations in the nation. Hundreds of people who lived or served at Fort Ord worry their health problems may have been caused by the harsh chemicals the military used and dumped there, per the Associated Press. King Law is actively supporting and guiding affected individuals in the Fort Ord water contamination lawsuit. If you spent time at Fort Ord and developed a disease related to PFAS exposure, do not hesitate to call our attorneys, as they can help you obtain compensation.

Fort Ord Water Contamination Lawsuit Updates

January 18, 2023 – Fort Ord Water Contamination Lawsuit Status

Veteran’s and their families that were at Fort Ord can now file a lawsuit if they have certain illnesses related to toxic exposure. In addition Civilians that were present at Fort Ord may have similar claims. Our firm is investigating cases of Kidney Cancer, Testicular Cancer, Bladder Cancer, Pancreatic Cancer, Prostate Cancer, Ulcerative Colitis, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Breast Cancer, Leukemia, Liver Cancer, Multiple Myeloma, Thyroid Cancer and Thyroid Disease. We are bringing the cases against the chemical companies. The federal court lawsuit is based in Charleston South Carolina and was originally centered around municipalities with contaminated water and firefighters that were exposed on the job. As we have learned more about military bases like Fort Ord there is a strong link to presence on certain bases and specific illnesses. The Judge has indicated that early test trials, known as bellwethers, may be related to exposure at or near military bases similar to Fort Ord.

January 12, 2023 – Medical Journal Reports Cancer Risk for Firefighters

A new study in the journal Occupational Medicine reports that firefighters are 60% more likely to die of cancer than the general population.

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The History of Contamination at Fort Ord

Veterans that were stationed at Fort Ord frequently came into contact with environmental contaminants such as PFAS and TCE. The Army base frequently doused equipment, and subsequently the environment and individuals, with TCE degreasers and other toxic chemical solvents and materials. The haphazard use of toxic materials, caused heavy contamination of the land and water supplies.

After receiving an anonymous tip from an unidentified caller detailing the illegal dumping of caustic material, tests were conducted regularly from 1985-1994 on the groundwater of Fort Ord. These tests detected TCE on 43 separate occasions. While the VA stated these levels were within the allowable range, 18 of these hits exceeded legal safety limits. On one of these occasions, TCE levels exceeded 5 times the legal safety limit. In 1985, general contractors were brought in to perform remediation of the contaminated water, but were warned to not discuss the water contamination with community members. (Associated Press)

In May of 2020, PFAS were detected in the groundwater below and around Fort Ord. The concentration detected at the former military base was 560 parts per trillion, which is more than 20,000 times the limit of danger as defined by the EPA (Military Poisons). PFAS are found in many firefighting foams, including the foams used to extinguish jet fuel and petroleum fires. At Fort Ord, eight airplane hangers contained fire suppression equipment that would expel these foams. According to an army report, one of these systems accidentally discharged, covering the airplane hangar in over five feet of foam. Once these chemicals are released into the environment, they do not break down and persist. (Military Poisons)

Fort Ord Water Contamination Map

Fort Ord Water Contamination Map: Infographic shows map of Fort Ord with sources of contamination and the affected areas.

The above map showcases the extent of water contamination at Fort Ord and the surrounding areas in Monterey Bay. The solid color shapes show the extent of contaminated drinking water (elevated levels in TCE, CT, and PCE) in various aquifers surrounding the area at their historical peak. The solid color lines with no fill show the current extent of contaminated drinking water. These areas have decreased in size from their max contamination due to cleanup efforts. However, these aquifer plumes continue to have elevated concentrations of toxic chemicals. As shown above, during prior times, water contamination expanded beyond Fort Ord’s boundaries, contaminating the community’s drinking supply.

Contaminants Found in Fort Ord’s Water

During Fort Ord’s operations, the army frequently used, misused, and improperly disposed of many toxic materials. Those at the base regularly burned chemicals, haphazardly sprayed toxic solvents, discarded chemical sludge into leaking underground storage tanks, illegally discarded contaminants into landfills, along with many other harmful behaviors. These actions heavily contaminated the land surrounding the army base with toxicants such as TCE, PFAS, and benzene. During periods of rainfall, these chemicals would seep into underground water reserves, from which drinking water is drawn, providing a route of exposure into the human body.

Trichloroethylene (TCE)

TCE, a volatile organic compound, was heavily used at Fort Ord due to the chemical’s ability to perform as a “miracle degreaser”. At room temperature, TCE is a colorless, non flammable liquid. These properties allow the chemical to easily move through soil and contaminate drinking water. Once in the water source or soil, TCE contamination is hard to remove as the chemical does not break down easily and persists in the environment without human intervention. Short term exposure to TCE affects the immune and reproductive systems, liver, kidneys, central nervous system, and may affect fetal development during pregnancy. Long term exposure to TCE can increase the risk of kidney cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and liver cancer.

Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

PFAS are a group of manmade chemicals that include perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). These chemicals have been widely used in industry and consumer products since the 1940s due to their ability to act as a flame retardant and heat protector. Similar to TCE, PFAS are of concern as these chemicals do not break down within the environment and tend to easily move through soil to contaminate water sources. Epidemiological research within human populations suggest that long-term consumption of PFAS may lead to increased cholesterol levels, changes in liver enzymes, increased risk of high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnant women, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis and increased risk of kidney or testicular cancers.

Additional Contaminants

Additional contaminants found at and around Fort Ord base include dichloroethane (DCE), carbon tetrachloride (CT), tetrachloroethene (PCE), and benzene. DCE, CT, and PCE all are suggested to affect the liver and kidneys. Benzene is used in the production of plastics and resins and were commonly used in the gunsmith and armory. Repeated long term exposure to benzene may cause blood cancers and disorders.

Health Risks and Symptoms Linked to Fort Ord’s Drinking Water

Several years after Fort Ord’s closure, veterans of the army base have been coming forward with rare blood cancers. Julia Akey, a Fort Ord veteran, has compiled a list of colleagues who lived at Fort Ord and have developed cancer. This list has grown to more than 400 people, nearly 200 of which were listed as having blood cancers. While cancer rates among veterans tend to be higher than civilians, the veterans of Fort Ord have a 35% higher rate of multiple myeloma. (Associated Press)

Multiple myeloma is a blood cancer that forms in the plasma cells of bone marrow. In healthy bone marrow, the plasma cells produce antibodies to help fight infection. In those with multiple myeloma, the malignant plasma cells produce an ineffective protein, the M protein. High levels of M protein indicate that an individual has multiple myeloma. In the early stages of disease, symptoms rarely present. Symptoms tend to present as an overall weakness, fatigue, infection, and bone pain. While multiple myeloma is treatable, there is no known cure. (MMRF)

PFAS exposure has also been linked to:

  • Kidney Cancer
  • Testicular Cancer
  • Thyroid Cancer
  • Thyroid Disease
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Bladder Cancer
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Leukemia
  • Male Breast Cancer
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Liver Cancer

The DOD has only ever acknowledged Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water supply having adverse human health impacts. Similar to Fort Ord, the base was found to have unsafe levels of TCE, PFAS, and benzenes within the water supply. Those who have worked at the base have reported higher mortality rates from cancers, including multiple myeloma and leukemia.

Eligibility Criteria for Fort Ord Water Contamination Lawsuit

If you were diagnosed with a condition related to drinking contaminated water at Fort Ord, you might be entitled to compensation. Our team can evaluate your individual situation which will help determine whether you should pursue legal action and how much your case may be worth.

1. Duration of exposure: Duration of exposure is an important factor in toxic exposure and water contamination lawsuits. While toxic exposure is never good, toxic chemicals like PFAS tend to build up in the body. We are typically looking for at least six months of exposure to a toxic substance.

2. Diagnosis
Our law firm is currently evaluating cases where individuals have been diagnosed with:

  • Bladder Cancer
  • Breast Cancer
  • Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Liver cancer
  • Multiple-Myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Testicular Cancer
  • Thyroid Cancer
  • Thyroid Disease
  • Ulcerative Colitis

Thousands of legal claims are being filed across the country related to contaminated drinking water. It is believed that these cases, including those against manufacturers of PFAS-containing products, may result in multi-million dollar settlements.

In order to file a military water contamination lawsuit, you need to consult with an attorney. During your consultation, you will want to provide vital evidence, including your medical records, military directives, and discharge paperwork, if applicable.
The more information you can provide related to your condition and your service, the better. Water contamination lawsuits may take several months or longer to resolve. An attorney can help guide you through the process so you know what to anticipate.

Fort Ord Water Contamination Settlement Amounts

Our firm expects that most settlements will be between $30,000 and $500,000. Case value is difficult to predict. We can look at prior lawsuits that involved cancer and see that many of those cases resolved in the $100,000 to $300,000 range. The average settlement amount could be around $250,000. People that were younger at the time of diagnosis might recieve larger settlements. People that had an active illness longer or had more toxic exposure could also get higher settlement amounts. Some cases may be valued at or near one million dollars. More minor injuries or injuries with less proof of relationship to the toxic substances at Fort Ord might also have lower settlement values, perhaps $30,000 to $75,000. Typically settlement values are lower than what someone might get if they went to trial. However, at trial there is always some risk of getting nothing.

Contact a Fort Ord Water Contamination Lawyer

Were you diagnosed with an illness or adverse health condition after drinking contaminated water at Fort Ord? Contact our office to discuss your case with an experienced member of our legal team. When choosing an attorney, it is important to utilize the most qualified team. At King Law, we have decades of experience handling complex cases, including those against the military. We will work to get you the compensation you deserve. Our team will provide the best services including claim evaluation, document preparation, and legal representation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Did Fort Ord have contaminated water?
Yes, TCE and PFAS have been detected in and around Fort Ord within the water supply above the legal safety limit.
What is the lawsuit on Fort Ord army base?
The active lawsuit regarding Fort Ord is the AFFF multidistrict litigation. It is a federal case that alleges PFAS levels like those at Fort Ord cause cancer and Thyroid problems.
What are the deadlines for filing a claim in the Fort Ord lawsuit?
The federal lawsuit began in 2018. We are still accepting cases, but you need to get this on file now because there could be a settlement this year.
What types of health problems are linked to the Fort Ord water contamination?
Blood cancers such as multiple myeloma and leukemia are the most common
health problems linked to the Fort Ord water contamination. However, many other cancers have been linked to PFAS contaminated water supplies.
Is Fort Ord polluted?
Yes, the soil and water surrounding Fort Ord were and still are today polluted by
persistent environmental contaminants including PFAS and TCE.
What evidence do I need for my claim in the Fort Ord lawsuit?
You don’t need anything. We will gather proof of being at or near the base and medical records to show you have a diagnosis causes by the toxic substances there.
How long will the Fort Ord lawsuit process take?
Most federal lawsuits take four to five years. However, this case began in 2018 so it might finish in less than a year.
Can family members of affected individuals participate in the lawsuit?
If the affected person is dead or incapable of acting on their own, a family member can be appointed by a judge to stand in their place.
What steps should I take if I was affected by the Fort Ord contamination?
You should call a lawyer that can get proof that you were there and proof that your illness can be caused by the toxic substances known to be at Fort Ord.
What kind of compensation can I expect from the Fort Ord lawsuit?
We believe most settlements will be between $50,000 and $500,000, with more minor injuries being lower and more serious illnesses being higher, perhaps over one million dollars.