Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Attorneys

Seeking Justice for Marines Affected by PCE & TCE Exposure

Since 1942, U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune has operated in Jacksonville, North Carolina. As the largest on the East Coast, the base claimed a population of nearly 35,000 in 2020. In 1982, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were discovered in 2 of the base’s 8 water treatment plants. It was found that these compounds had dangerously affected Camp Lejeune's drinking water since 1953.

It wasn’t until 1997, however, that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) released a public health assessment notice regarding the contamination.

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Tarawa Terrace Water Treatment Plant Contamination

The water in the Tarawa Terrace plant was found to be primarily contaminated by PCE (perchloroethylene or tetrachloroethylene). PCE is commonly used for dry cleaning and metal degreasing. After a deep dive into historical data, the ATSDR discovered that the water had been contaminated by the waste disposal practices of an off-base dry-cleaning facility called ABC One-Hour Cleaners. This caused the concentrations of PCE in the water to exceed the current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maximum contaminant level of 5 parts per billion (ppb) for the 346 months between November 1957 and February 1987.

Hadnot Point Water Treatment Plant Contamination

The primary contamination in the Hadnot Point plant was found to be TCE (trichloroethylene), although other contaminants included PCE, benzene, and TCE degradation products trans-1,2-DCE (t-1,2-dichloroethylene) and vinyl chloride. TCE is predominantly used to clean metal parts. Unlike the Tarawa Terrace plant, the contamination of which could be traced to a singular source, supply wells at the Hadnot Point plant were affected by multiple sources, including leaking underground storage tanks, industrial area spills, and waste disposal sites between August 1953 and January 1985. Wells at the plant were removed from service in late 1984 in response to high levels of TCE contamination; in December 1984, VOCs were detected at 210 ppb in one well and at 110 ppb in another.

The Janey Ensminger Act

Sponsored by Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Bill Nelson (D-FL), the Janey Ensminger Act sought to “ensure accountability to our nation’s veterans and family members” by pushing the Veterans Administration (VA) to accept ATSDR’s findings regarding the connection between the water contamination and the injuries and diseases now suffered by those exposed. The act is named for the daughter of Marine Corps member Jerry Ensminger, who died from leukemia at 9 years old after exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, where the family lived when she was born. The act allows non-military family members to apply for VA benefits for healthcare related to toxic exposure at the base.

Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2021

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act seeks to provide further justice, building on the foundation of the Janey Ensminger Act. According to the legislation, “any individual who resided, worked or was otherwise exposed (including in utero)” and was “exposed for at least 30 days during the period of 8/1/1953 and 12/31/1987” is eligible to file a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Northern Carolina to recover damages.

The number of people that includes is staggering. “Anybody who served in the United States Marine Corps, and went for combat training, probably went to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina,” Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), the Camp Lejeune bill’s sponsor, said. “So this is not just a North Carolina issue; it's a national issue.”

North Carolina is one of few states that hold a statute of repose on polluters, prohibiting those affected from filing suits more than 10 years after the contamination stopped. In the past, this statute has been used to prevent Camp Lejeune suits, but the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2021 lifts it, superseding and nullifying that limitation.

Health Problems Caused by TCE & PCE Exposure

Depending on the way a person was exposed to TCE or PCE, the health effects may vary.

Children who were exposed in the womb to TCE or PCE may suffer from:

  • Chronal atresia
  • Oral cleft or eye defects
  • Fetal death
  • Leukemia
  • Low birth weight
  • Major heart defects
  • Miscarriage
  • Neural tube defects

People of all ages exposed to drinking water contaminated with TCE or PCE may suffer from:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

People of all ages exposed by working with TCE or PCE may suffer from:

  • Cervical cancer
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Kidney cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Biliary cancer
  • Neurological effects
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Prostate cancer

Signature Injuries Recognized as Compensable

According to the VA, there are several signature injuries that can be linked to the water contamination at Camp Lejeune. Based on studies conducted by medical and scientific professionals, the italicized injuries in the list below have been accepted by the federal government as being presumptively caused by exposure.

The signature injuries of the contamination of the drinking water at Camp Lejeune include:

  • Aplastic anemia
  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Female infertility
  • Hepatic steatosis
  • Kidney cancer
  • Adult leukemia
  • Liver cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Miscarriage
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Neurobehavioral effects
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Renal toxicity
  • Scleroderma

Camp Lejeune Exposure Attorneys Fighting for Our Veterans

If you or a loved one have suffered any of these injuries and you suspect them to be related to the contamination at Camp Lejeune, a lawyer can help you seek justice. At Arnold & Itkin, our team has won over $20 billion in verdicts and settlements on behalf of our clients and will fight tirelessly for what’s right. If you’re ready for answers, don’t settle for second best. Contact Arnold & Itkin to pursue the relief you deserve.

Contact our team of Camp Lejeune water contamination lawyers today. We’re here to help. No matter what.

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