Justice for Veterans Exposed to Toxic Water at Camp Lejeune

For years, the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, located on the coast of south-central North Carolina, has been linked to controversy stemming from water contamination.

Experts from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) estimate the base’s water was likely contaminated from 1953 to 1987 — a time during which nearly 1 million civilian workers, military members and their families were potentially exposed to the toxic water at the base.

Learn More: The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 gives new options to Camp Lejeune Veterans

Unsurprisingly, the chemical contamination of the water has led to a wide range of deadly health conditions among those exposed to it, including cases of cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, and more.

However, for more than 30 years, the military members and their families who have been impacted by the water-contamination tragedy have not had any legal recourse whatsoever.

This changes as the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 becomes law, giving military members and their families the ability to file lawsuits for Camp Lejeune health-related issues.

In addition, the act will also allow military members impacted by the water contamination to speed up VA disability and benefits claims.

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What Contaminated the Water at Camp Lejeune?

For the hundreds of thousands of military service members, veterans, and their families who have been impacted by the water contamination at Camp Lejeune, financial relief, justice, and accountability can’t come soon enough.

Known as volatile organic compounds — or VOCs, for short — these toxic chemicals can prove deadly to human health if ingested through drinking water or other means of exposure. As a result of being exposed to VOCs at Camp Lejeune, thousands of military personnel — and their family members — have gotten sick. Many have died.

Records show the U.S. Marine Corps discovered the base’s water was contaminated in 1982 and took action to start removing the water wells impacted by the contamination in 1983, a project that was ultimately completed in 1987. However, by then, the ATSDR estimates the water contamination had already been going steady for nearly three decades – dating back to at least August 1, 1953.

According to the ATSDR, the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune included the following VOCs:

  • Benzene
  • Tetrachloroethylene (PCE)
  • Trichloroethylene (TCE)
  • Vinyl chloride (VC)

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), benzene, TCE, and VC are all determined to cause cancer in humans. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has declared PCE is “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”

According to an investigation by CBS News, toxic VOCs at Camp Lejeune were found to be at levels that were 400 times what federal safety standards allow.

It’s About Time: Military Families Can Now Seek Relief

Sadly, there is no shortage of potentially lethal illnesses and diseases that can arise from exposure to VOCs from contaminated drinking water. Indeed, birth defects, cancer, and more than a dozen of other health-related issues have been reported to the ATSDR.

Health conditions related to contaminated water exposure at Camp Lejeune include:

  • Aplastic anemia
  • Birth defects
  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Cardiac defects
  • Kidney cancer (renal cancer)
  • Leukemia
  • Liver cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Prostate cancer
  • Rectal cancer

Our Camp Lejeune lawyers may now be able to help individuals and their families impacted by these Camp Lejeune water contamination illnesses and others to file lawsuits and pursue funds that can help pay for and treat their illnesses, as the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 becomes law.

What’s Next?

The water contamination at Camp Lejeune was preventable and unsuspecting civilians and veterans should not have been exposed to these toxic chemicals.

What’s worse, according to CBS News, only 17% of all VA benefits claims linked to Camp Lejeune water contamination have been approved by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) — a shocking figure, especially when one considers over 109,000 veterans have filed for assistance from the VA.

This new law will allow all veterans, active-duty military personnel and their family members to take legal action for compensation related to the health conditions and injuries suffered as a result of exposure to VOCs in Camp Lejeune’s contaminated drinking water.

For thousands of U.S. veterans, this relief can’t come soon enough. According to the VA, more than 2,400 benefits claims related to Camp Lejeune water contamination are currently pending in the VA’s extremely backed-up system.

Anyone who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 may now be entitled to Camp Lejeune compensation from a legal claim.

Contact the Sokolove Law team, who will listen to your story and help identify the options available to you and your family.

Author:Sokolove Law Team
Sokolove Law Team

Contributing Authors

The Sokolove Law Content Team is made up of writers, editors, and journalists. We work with case managers and attorneys to keep site information up to date and accurate. Our site has a wealth of resources available for victims of wrongdoing and their families.

Last modified: September 9, 2022

View 8 Sources
  1. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). "ATSDR Assessment of the Evidence for the Drinking Water Contaminants at Camp Lejeune and Specific Cancers and Other Diseases." Retrieved on June 5, 2022, from https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/sites/lejeune/docs/atsdr_summary_of_the_evidence_for_causality_tce_pce-508.pdf
  2. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). "Chemicals Involved." Retrieved June 5, 2022, from https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/sites/lejeune/chem_descriptions.html
  3. CBS News/AP News. “Vets exposed to contaminated water may now apply for disability benefits.” CBS News, 2017 Jan. 13. Retrieved June 5, 2022, from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/camp-lejeune-contaminated-water-veterans-benefits/
  4. Herridge, Catherine and Andrew Bast. “Service members and families affected by toxic water at Marine base still seeking justice decades later.” CBS News, 2022 Jan. 10. Retrieved June 5, 2022, from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/toxic-water-marine-base-service-members-families-justice/
  5. Herridge, Catherine and Jessica Kegu. “‘Deny until they die’: Some veterans say VA wrongly rejects claims for illnesses they blame on Camp Lejeune's contaminated water.” CBS News, 2022 Feb. 16. Retrieved June 5, 2022, from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/va-camp-lejeune-contaminated-water-veterans-disability-claims
  6. National Cancer Institute (NCI). “Trichloroethylene - Cancer-Causing Substances.” NCI, n.d. Retrieved June 5, 2022, from https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/substances/trichloroethylene
  7. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Facts about Benzene.” CDC, n.d. Retrieved June 5, 2022, from https://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/benzene/basics/facts.asp#:~:text=The%20Department%20of%20Health%20and,of%20the%20blood%2Dforming%20organs.
  8. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “Tetrachloroethylene.” EPA, n.d. Retrieved June 5, 2022, from https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2016-09/documents/tetrachloroethylene.pdf