Camp Lejeune Litigation: Where it All Began

Camp Lejeune Litigation: Where it All Began

Camp Lejeune is one place that often makes it to the news. Back in the 1940s, the need for a new amphibious East Coast training facility was felt when America’s entry into World War II became imminent.

Within days, the Department of Navy had managed to purchase a whopping 110,000 acres of land bearing proximity to Morehead City and Wilmington. In short, Camp Lejeune turned out to be a logistical treasure.

But that is not all. According to the official website of The United States Marine Corps, it was the intense work on building miles-long beaches and pine forests that made the military base unmatched. 

Nearly two years of hard work and $14 million later, the base was officially inaugurated as Marine Barracks Camp Lejeune in end-1942. However, this otherwise unparalleled base responsible for training corps to fight wars in Kuwait, Lebanon, Vietnam, Iraq, and other areas hid a disturbingly dark secret.

A Shocking Revelation That Took Four Decades

Exactly 40 years later (in 1982), the Marine Corps made a shocking discovery. Out of the eight water distribution tanks present in the base, three tested positive for toxic substances. Those three tanks were as follows:

The Hadnot Point

This water distribution tank was established in 1942. It was primarily responsible for supplying water to the residential units located at Paradise Point, Hospital Point, Midway Park, and Berkeley Manor.

Even the military personnel received water through this main tank. The top pollutants found in the water included organic toxic compounds like trichloroethylene (TCE) and vinyl chloride. The tragic part is that despite this discovery, the tank was only shut down at the end of February 1985.

Water contamination exceeded the maximum levels prescribed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at least since 1953!

The Tarawa Terrace

This tank began its operations in 1952 only. The Tarawa Terrace mainly served the housing localities in the Knox Trailer Park and the Tarawa Housing. In 1985, huge volumes of tetrachloroethylene (PCE) were found in the tank’s water.

The quantity was nearly 40 times that of the maximum limit. The US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry found that such toxic conditions had persisted for the past 30 years. This tank was only closed in 1987.  

The Holcomb Boulevard

This water distribution tank was set up in 1972. Since March 1987, it was operated to supply water to the Tarawa Housing and Knox Trailer Park housing units (previously impacted by Tarawa Terrace’s contaminated water).

However, Holcomb Boulevard also served the family units of Hadnot Point. The interesting thing is that this tank was shut down for a week in February 1985. During this time, water from the Hadnot Point was supplied to the Holcomb system. This is what led to the contamination.

 

The Aftermath of Years of Toxic Water Consumption

The families of the Camp veterans had utilized the toxic water for bathing and cooking purposes. Some even directly consumed tap water for drinking. This exposed these people to toxicity that was 2000 times the maximum level.

As a result, many Camp Lejeune residents reported contracting deadly diseases. As per the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, some of the most common diseases include:

  •         Several types of cancer, including lung cancer, bladder cancer, leukemia, multiple myeloma, etc.
  •         Neurobehavioral defects
  •         Miscarriages
  •         Hepatic Steatosis
  •         Infertility issues
  •         Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  •         Parkinson’s disease
  •         Aplastic anemia

Ongoing Camp Lejeune Investigations 

It was only in 2009 that the Federal Government conducted a deep investigation into the matter. As many as 350,000 former residents and employees were included in the investigation.

In 2012, President Barrack Obama started providing medical support to all the Camp victims through the Janey Ensminger Act. However, it was finally in 2022 that the Camp Lejeune Justice Act was enforced. Under the PACT Act of 2022, all affected residents (be it veterans or their civilian family members), were to be provided adequate compensation.

The Act made it possible for the victim to file a Camp Lejeune lawsuit. But what would the settlements look like? According to TorHoerman Law, Camp Lejeune settlement amounts could vary anywhere between $10,000 and $500,000 for a single claim depending upon the injuries suffered. However, these numbers are estimates and the final compensation is determined on a case-to-case basis.

 

The Bottom Line

Eventually, it is important to remember that the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 makes only those eligible to file a claim that were exposed to toxic water for at least 30 days between 1953 and 1987. This could even include families of deceased and unborn babies.

While there are no current plans to permanently shut down Camp Lejeune, the contaminated water controversy continues. Some believe the cause to be an off-base dry cleaning company’s waste disposal practice (which has now shut down). So, the problem must not persist, right? Well, only time will tell.

 

Shankar

Shankar is a tech blogger who occasionally enjoys penning historical fiction. With over a thousand articles written on tech, business, finance, marketing, mobile, social media, cloud storage, software, and general topics, he has been creating material for the past eight years.