The Tragedy of Camp Lejeune

What is Camp Lejeune and what happened there?

Camp Lejeune is one of the biggest—and busiest—military bases in the United States. Located in North Carolina on the Atlantic Ocean, Camp Lejeune’s most dubious claim to fame recently is being implicated in one of the most extensive toxic water scandals in the United States. Between 1953 and 1987, those stationed at and working at Camp Lejeune were potentially exposed to contaminated drinking water. The water that those at the Camp drank, bathed in, cooked with, and washed their clothing with contained Benzene, PCE, TCE, and vinyl chloride in dangerous amounts. Other chemicals were found as well, however, these were the most dangerous, and found in the highest concentrations.

PCEs are solvents used in dry cleaning, textile processing, metal cleaning, and other industrial processes. A drycleaning business near the base was dumping chemicals into the drains, which seeped into the wells that supplied the Camp with their water. PCE is absorbed orally, through inhalation, and through skin exposure. When the body is exposed to PCE, the chemicals travel through the bloodstream to the lungs, targeting the kidneys, liver, and nervous system. As PCE degrades, it becomes a part of TCE, DCE, and vinyl chloride. TCE is known to cross the placenta, causing serious birth defects.  

What Cancers and Other Diseases Were Caused by Camp Lejeune Contaminated Water? Thousands of those who lived and worked at the Camp were diagnosed with severe illnesses like certain cancers, Parkinson’s disease, infertility, miscarriages, and birth defects.  PCE can cause liver and kidney diseases, liver cancer, kidney cancer, bladder cancer, esophageal cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, and other types of cancers. It can also cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other blood diseases. PCE levels at the Tarawa Terrace water treatment and supply facility at Camp Lejeune were dangerously high for at least 346 months—almost three decades. The EPA’s maximum safe level of PCE in drinking water is 5 ug/L. The maximum level of PCE detected in Camp Lejeune water samples was in 1985 and was 215 parts per billion (ug/L). The primary source of that contamination was ABC One-Hour Cleaners.

What Does the EPA Have to Say About the Camp Lejeune Toxic Water? The EPA labeled Camp Lejeune a “major polluter” as far back as the 1970s. At that time, those in charge of the camp were asserting they were properly disposing of waste, however later it was found the Marine Corps were dumping oil and other industrial wastewater into storm drains. Further, potentially radioactive materials—and dog carcasses that had been used to test radioactive materials—were buried on the grounds at Camp Lejeune. Although the EPA had not yet regulated such chemicals as TCE, PCE, and benzene, once environmental regulations were finally in place and the military chemists tested the drinking water in 1980, still nothing was done.

The Marines claim they did not receive the results of the 1980 tests until 1982, but even in 1982 nothing was done to protect those living and working at Camp Lejeune. Finally, Grainger Laboratories, an outside lab, tested the water at Camp Lejeune, determining the raw water at the treatment plant was contaminated with solvents. This meant that the wells themselves were contaminated, but the wells were not tested until 1984. After having their test results ignored by the Marine Corps at the base, Grainger finally took their test results to the state of North Carolina. Finally, in late 1984 and early 1985, ten contaminated wells at Camp Lejeune were closed.  

What Are the Legal Remedies Associated with Camp Lejeune? If you or a loved one was exposed to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune for a minimum of 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987, then later developed a health condition associated with the toxic water or died, you may be eligible to file a Camp Lejeune lawsuit. Having a highly experienced Camp Lejeune lawyer to discuss your legal options and guide you through the process of filing under the PACT Act is extremely important.

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Author: Andrew Sullo
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