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What Caused Camp Lejeune Water Contamination?

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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt
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The Camp Lejeune water contamination was an event that occurred in the 1950s, with lawsuits still being filed today.

From my months of research, I discovered that toxic chemicals such as benzene, TCE, and PCE were the primary causes of water pollution at Camp Lejeune.

As a tort lawyer, these findings motivated me to file several lawsuits on behalf of affected victims who suffer from one condition or another and deserve financial relief.

If you are one of these victims seeking compensation for your health, I can help you file a lawsuit and ensure you get the justice you deserve for damages.

Quick Summary

  • Toxic chemicals such as benzene, TCE, and PCE were the primary causes of Camp Lejeune’s water contamination.
  • You can file for compensation for damages once you provide medical evidence and other relevant information that shows that you are suffering from a condition caused by exposure to Camp Lejeune’s polluted water.
  • The Justice Act of 2022 is part of the Honoring Our Pact Act that provides veterans with the opportunity to seek health benefits and other compensations for their conditions caused by the chemicals in the water at Camp Lejeune.
  • The Hadnot Point Treatment Plant and the Tarawa Terrace Treatment Plant are the two contaminant sources at the Camp Lejeune base.

The History of the Camp Lejeune Contaminated Water

A chemist getting water into a test tubeCamp Lejeune’s contaminated water can be traced back to the 1950s. However, the water was only discovered to be contaminated in the early 1980s. This discovery was made by EPA scientists stationed at Camp Lejeune.

It was this discovery that led to more investigations, which then revealed that the water at Camp Lejeune was polluted.

The Corps was also dumping wastes within the drains; however, they denied this, stating that they disposed of the wastes carefully in line with common practices at the time.

Wastes, dog carcasses, and even radioactive materials were found within the base. Also, ABC One-Hour Cleaners was found to have been dumping wastewater filled with chemicals into the drains.

This wastewater contained various chemicals, such as TCE, PCE, benzene, and vinyl chloride, among many others, that had spiraled down to the water wells at Camp Lejeune and contaminated the water in them.

Later, scientists conducted several tests and made reports, after which they shut the water wells at Camp Lejeune. After some time, the news of the toxic water at Camp Lejeune became public knowledge, and years passed with no lawsuits filed.

However, in 2009, the first Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit was filed by Laura Jones, the wife of a former marine. 

It was after this event that the United States government began to take the Camp Lejeune accident more seriously, starting with the Obama Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 and the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022. 

Thousands of lawsuits are currently being filed in response to Camp Lejeune, though the U.S. government is still figuring out how to compensate the victims.

Chemicals Responsible for the Tainted Water at Camp Lejeune

A chemist looking at chemicals from camp lejeune

There were several chemicals and volatile organic compounds responsible for the tainted water at Camp Lejeune. Here they are in detail below:

Trichloroethylene (TCE)

TCE is a chemical substance that is used to eliminate metal marks from products during the manufacturing process. We usually find it in most consumer goods, and it has a subtle odor that can’t easily be detected, especially when it is in the air.

This chemical is also non-flammable, easily evaporates, and can be used to produce other toxic substances as well.

Lastly, it is one of the primary substances that was discovered to have contaminated the water at Camp Lejeune.

Tetrachloroethylene (PCE)

Graphic of TetrachloroethylenePCE is a substance that is used by most dry cleaning businesses for dry cleaning. This chemical can also be used for wood processing and manufacturing clothing materials. 

It also has similar properties to TCE, as it is non-flammable, has a pleasant odor, and easily evaporates.

Also, a study showed that PCE was the major Camp Lejeune water contaminant for pregnant mothers, as they were at the time highly vulnerable to the chemical, with some running higher risks than others [1].

Vinyl Chloride

Vinyl chloride is a colorless gas or liquid that is used to manufacture other substances, especially in the plastics industry, to make polyvinyl chloride. 

This chemical, although a secondary contaminant, is among the list of chemicals that are responsible for polluting the water at Camp Lejeune.

Methylene Chloride

This chemical is a colorless liquid that is used for various purposes, such as paint removal, metal cleaning, and drug manufacturing.

You can only get exposed to this substance by inhalation, which means there is a very high chance that this chemical might be responsible for your condition if you got exposed to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune through inhalation.

Benzene

Benzene is a light yellow liquid that comes with a sweet odor and is generally very flammable. Unlike other substances, benzene does not completely dissolve in water, which makes it very easy to identify.

Toluene

Graphic of TolueneToluene is a clear liquid that comes with a strong odor and has been proven to be one of the secondary chemicals responsible for Camp Lejeune’s water contamination.

Research strongly suggests that toluene was detected in the contaminated water supply at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, possibly as a degradation product of PCE, and in a few water samples collected in 1984 and 1985 [2].

Exposure to this chemical is frequent through drinking or inhaling substances that have it.

Also, if this happens, you have a high chance of suffering from numerous conditions, such as liver damage, kidney damage, fatigue, amnesia, etc.

1,1-Dichloroethylene (1,1-DCE)

1,1-DCE is a synthetic substance used to make polythene bags and fire-retardant fibers.

You can recognize it by its sharp smell, and it can contaminate water upon immediate contact, and the same goes for air.

1,2-Dichloroethylene (1,2-DCE)

Graphic of 1,2-Dichloroethylene (1,2-DCE)1,2-DCE is a similar substance to 1,1-DCE, has a sharp smell, and is used to produce solvent and certain chemical mixtures.

Studies have shown that you can be exposed to 1,2-DCE by breathing it in, drinking the contaminated Camp Lejeune water, or breathing vapors from the contaminated water while cooking, bathing, or washing [3].

It is also very flammable and less toxic than vinyl chloride. This substance is also responsible for the toxic water at Camp Lejeune, and you can get exposed to it through inhalation.

What Are the Sources of the Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune?

The National Research Council discovered that the water contamination at Camp Lejeune came from multiple sources. 

However, the eight treatment plants at the Camp Lejeune base were discovered to be the leading sources of the polluted water.

They include:

  • Tarawa Terrace
  • Hadnot Point
  • Holcomb Boulevard
  • Courthouse Bay
  • Rifle Range
  • Onslow Beach
  • Montford Point/Camp Johnson
  • New River

However, two primary water treatment plants stood out as the main contaminant sources. They were the Hadnot Point treatment plant and the Tarawa Terrace treatment plant.

Hadnot Point Treatment PlantClose up shot of a water treatment tube

The Hadnot Point treatment plant served as the primary source of water supply for the Camp Lejeune hospital and the base housing on Holcomb Boulevard. 

This water system contained numerous contaminants that came from various sources, making investigations quite difficult.

Nonetheless, high amounts of TCE were discovered to be present in the plant, and the cause of this was attributed to various reasons, some of which include:

  • On-base spills which may have occurred simply because the marines failed to do proper cleanup and give them the attention they deserved at the time.
  • Leaks from underground storage tanks that may have found their way into the wells that supplied water to the Hadnot Point treatment plant. 
  • Local dumps that may have failed to dispose of chemical wastes, leading to them making their way to the groundwater and, in turn, leading to contaminated drinking water for the Camp Lejeune residents.

Tarawa Terrace Treatment Plant

A chemist in a water treatment plan getting waterAt the Tarawa Terrace treatment plant, several tests were done, and the results showed that the plant contained high levels of PCE. 

Further investigation revealed that a dry cleaning company was improperly disposing of chemical waste generated by the dry cleaning process.

This practice by the dry cleaning business also contributed to the overall groundwater contamination, and it even increased over the years as it continued.

Finding the exact sources of these contaminants can be difficult in most cases, and knowing who is responsible can also be tasking.

Nonetheless, once the news about these contaminated treatment plants was made public, the wells within the Camp Lejeune base were shut down to prevent further damage.

Also, proper cleanup practices were put in place immediately to eradicate the contamination that occurred in the water supplies.

Health Effects of the Chemicals in Camp Lejeune’s Polluted Water

A person in the hospital because of polluted water chemicals

Research strongly suggests that the polluted water at Camp Lejeune led to several causes of death, including cancers of the kidney, liver, esophagus, cervix, multiple myeloma, Hodgkin lymphoma, and ALS [4].

If you were exposed to the harmful chemicals present in the Camp Lejeune water, there are several health conditions that you can easily contract. Here are some of them below:

Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer affects the bladder by causing a tumor to grow around it, leading to blood in the urine, frequent urination, or other symptoms such as back pain.

Breast Cancer

A woman with breast cancer looking at the cameraResearch strongly suggests that there are possible associations between male breast cancer, being stationed at Camp Lejeune, and cumulative exposure to PCE, DCE, and vinyl chloride [5].

This disease affects one or both breasts and in some cases, breast removal surgery would have to be done to eliminate the disease. 

Common symptoms of this disease include breast pain, white fluid from the breast, swollen skin or a lump on or around the breasts, and so on.

Related Article: Camp Lejeune Breast Cancer Lawsuit

Liver Cancer

This disease affects the cells present in the liver, and in most cases, this type of cancer spreads from other areas within the body system to the liver rather than from it.

Vinyl chloride and TCE are two chemicals present in the adulterated water at Camp Lejeune that are responsible for causing liver cancer in individuals who are exposed to them.

Damage to Internal Organs

The Camp Lejeune accident can lead to damaged internal organs, causing renal toxicity, multiple myeloma, hepatic steatosis, scleroderma, and myelodysplastic syndromes.

These conditions can produce varying results within the internal organs, making them difficult to diagnose.

Infertility

The Camp Lejeune accident can cause infertility, particularly in newly formed families, making it very difficult for them to produce children.

Prostate Cancer

The hazardous chemicals that led to the Camp Lejeune accident are the leading cause of prostate cancer in affected individuals. 

The disease affects the prostate, and you may develop warning signs during the latter stages, such as infected semen, erectile dysfunction, weight loss, etc.

Other Health Effects

A doctor consoling a patient

Other health effects caused by these chemicals include:

N/B: It is important to know that not all exposures to the chemicals in the Camp Lejeune water will lead to you suffering from any of the conditions listed above.

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Have you or a loved one been injured or exposed to a toxic chemical at work or in the home that has caused a severe life-threatening side effect, illness, disease, or death?

Your chances of developing any disease will depend on the following factors:

  • When you are exposed (during pregnancy, in infancy, etc)
  • How much you are exposed to
  • How long you are exposed
  • How you are exposed (breathing, drinking), and
  • What your traits and habits are

This is why you should first see a doctor and obtain medical evidence proving that you are indeed suffering from a condition caused by the chemicals in the Camp Lejeune water.

Who Is to Be Held Responsible for the Water Pollution at Camp Lejeune?

A lawyer looking at paperworkJust like I mentioned earlier, knowing the exact people behind the water pollution at Camp Lejeune is quite difficult simply because the contamination had already occurred long before any testing took place.

Despite this challenge, the VA offers benefits to victims who are suffering from cancers caused by exposure to Camp Lejeune’s toxic water. 

Some of these health benefits include help for bladder, breast, esophageal, lung, or kidney cancer; miscarriages; potential behavioral effects of chemical exposure; and leukemia.

The VA also offers disability benefits to victims who suffered severe disabilities because they were exposed to Camp Lejeune’s tainted water.

Also, the Honoring Our Pact Act of 2022 has been established to provide reasonable settlement amounts to veterans and their families who may have developed severe medical conditions caused by exposure to the polluted Camp Lejeune water.

These settlement amounts will benefit them, especially if their medical problems require constant medical care for the rest of their lives.

See all related toxic tort cases our lawyers have covered.

What You Should Do if You Are Suffering From a Condition Caused by Camp Lejeune Polluted Water

A doctor writing down what to do on conditions caused by camp lejeuneIf you are suffering from a condition caused either by inhalation or by drinking water from Camp Lejeune’s polluted water, you have to understand first of all that there are lawyers such as myself that can help you explore your options.

This way, you know if you are eligible for compensation, how much you likely will be compensated, and what exactly you will be compensated for.

However, to achieve this, you have to, first of all, provide your medical records, which show that you have been diagnosed with a disease that was caused by the Camp Lejeune water.

The medical record should also contain other relevant information, such as the length of treatment and the long-term impact the disease may have had on your life.

Another record you have to provide is your service record, which should show that you served at Camp Lejeune during the period when the contamination took place. 

This information should enable your lawyer to prepare a strong case that most likely will draw the attention of the assigned judge toward granting you a specific settlement amount.

What Is the Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012?

A lawyer explaining camp lejeune families actThe Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 is a law that former President Barack Obama signed on August 6, 2012. This act was established to provide medical benefits to veterans and their families who were exposed to adulterated water at Camp Lejeune.

According to the Act, these veterans would get healthcare for a medical condition they are suffering from that was caused by the water when they were carrying out their duties and responsibilities.

Of course, it is also required that they provide medical evidence to support their claim that their condition was caused by exposure to contaminated water.

For veterans suffering from more severe health conditions such as cancer, for example, the time for filing their claim starts only when they are aware that they have a condition or should have been aware that their conditions are directly related to their employment while at Camp Lejeune [6].

“(This) is the largest environmental contamination in the history of the United States of America. This was a cover-up.

The United States Government knew and they failed to tell you, and that infuriates me.” –Erin Brockovich, President of Brockovich Research & Consulting and Consultant at Weitz & Luxenberg.

What Is the Purpose of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022?

The purpose of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, which is part of the Honoring Our Pact Act, is to allow Camp Lejeune residents to be able to sue and get compensated for damages caused by exposure to Camp Lejeune’s polluted water.

These veterans and their families will be able to get settlement amounts for their health problems and medical expenses caused by the chemicals present in Camp Lejeune water.

Settlement Amounts for the Lawsuit Victims of Camp Lejeune’s Toxic Water

A lawyer writing down the settlement amounts of camp lejeune toxic water lawsuitVictims who had prolonged exposure to Camp Lejeune’s toxic water are most likely to develop more serious health conditions that are deadly. This category is classified as Tier 1.

If these victims have tier 1 conditions such as breast cancer, liver cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and others, they will most likely be compensated around $300,000 to $1 million.

However, if the diseases are classified as Tier 2, which includes less serious conditions such as aplastic anemia and others, they will be compensated between $200,000 and $500,000.

Related: Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Settlement Amounts

FAQs

What Chemicals Were Found in Camp Lejeune’s Water?

The chemicals that were found in the Camp Lejeune water were up to 70. However, the major ones include TCE, PCE, benzene, and vinyl chloride. These chemicals are directly responsible for the conditions suffered by tons of veterans today.

What Illnesses Are Linked to the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination?

The Illnesses Caused by Camp Lejeune Water Contamination are numerous. However, common conditions include aplastic anemia, multiple myeloma, and renal toxicity. More serious conditions usually include cancers of the liver, breast, and bladder.

How Much Money Are People Getting From Camp Lejeune Lawsuits?

The money people are getting from Camp Lejeune lawsuits is estimated to be over $6.7 billion right now. Depending on the severity of the condition, victims could receive a settlement amount of up to $1 million or even more.

When Did the Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Start?

The Camp Lejeune lawsuit started back in 2009 when Laura Jones, the wife of a marine, became the first individual to file a lawsuit against the U.S. government with claims that she had suffered from conditions caused by exposure to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune. 

Get Your Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Started Right Away!

Contact us today at Schmidt & Clark, LLP by calling (866) 588-0600 if you or a loved one is suffering from severe health conditions because of exposure to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune.

We offer free case evaluations, and we have a team of experienced attorneys ready to help you file that claim and get the justice that you deserve.

Should you need legal advice, we have professional legal representatives that will be more than happy to discuss with you and help you explore your options, if any, for the best step to take.

We understand what you are going through, which is why we want to ensure that you get a settlement amount that should cover your damages, medical expenses, and much more.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11700244/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK535932/#sec_000229
  3. https://misuse.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/error/abuse.shtml
  4. https://misuse.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/error/abuse.shtml
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26376727/
  6. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/owcp/dfec/regs/compliance/camplejeuneguidance 

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