From 1953 to 1987, the water used for drinking, cooking, handwashing, and showering at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune was contaminated with substances that are toxic to human health. The main contaminants—trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), vinyl chloride, and benzene—have been linked to a number of serious health conditions, including neurological impacts and a variety of different cancers.
The toxic exposure that occurred for a period of more than three decades recently prompted the U.S. government to take legal action to help victims. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2021 created a legal pathway for veterans and civilians who were stationed at, lived on, or worked at Camp Lejeune to hold the U.S. government responsible for the harm they’ve suffered.
Camp Lejeune was not necessarily the only place affected by the contaminated water. Benzene—a known human carcinogen that has been linked to multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and acute lymphocytic leukemia—has been found in water sources surrounding the military base and throughout the rest of North Carolina.
Where Is Camp Lejeune Located?
Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune is based on the east side of North Carolina in the city of Jacksonville. Located in Onslow County, Camp Lejeune butts up against New River, with easy access to the Atlantic Ocean.
Areas Near Camp Lejeune That May Have Experienced Water Contamination
There were three different water distribution plants that provided contaminated water to Camp Lejeune: Hadnot Point, Tarawa Terrace, and Holcomb Boulevard. Tarawa Terrace has been shut down, and Hadnot Point and Holcomb Boulevard have since been cleared of any signs of contamination.
However, North Carolina’s drinking wells may have also been inadvertently affected by the initial contamination that also affected the water treatment plants servicing Camp Lejeune.
Between 2000 and 2010, benzene was found in wells supplying drinking water in approximately half of North Carolina counties, including Onslow County, Carteret County, Craven County, Pender County, New Hanover County, and more. There are no safe levels of benzene exposure, and even small amounts of exposure can cause severe health outcomes.
Tetrachloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE) have also been found in North Carolina’s drinking wells. Some of the counties dealing with TCE and PCE water contamination include:
- Carteret County
- Craven County
- Pitt County
- Lenoir County
- Duplin County
- Wake County
- Randolph County
- Stanly County
- Madison County
In 2005, a homeowner in Stony Hill (an unincorporated community located in Wake County) complained to county authorities that his residential well from which he sourced water smelled like petroleum. A subsequent investigation found both TCE and PCE in the water. Although this specific example of contamination is believed to have come from former circuit board assembly companies that were previously located on the property, it is a clear example of how precarious the safety of our water supply can be.
Contaminated water is a serious concern for most of North Carolina’s residents, as more than 50% of the population relies on municipal and private wells for their drinking water.
What Should I Do if I Think My Water Is Contaminated?
If you live in North Carolina and suspect that your water might be contaminated with environmental pollutants, you can contact:
- 911 in the event of an emergency
- The Division of Water Resources at 877-623-6748 (800-858-0368 for after-hours, weekend, and holiday reports)
- The Department of Environmental Quality at 919-401-9600
Do not drink, cook with, or bathe in water that you believe is contaminated. Use bottled water or, if necessary, temporarily stay in a hotel or with a friend or family member.
Health Conditions Associated With Polluted Ground Water
TCE, PCE, vinyl chloride, and benzene exposure have been found to cause some of the following health effects:
- Kidney cancer
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Cardiac defects
- Bladder cancer
- Liver cancer
- Brain cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Breast cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Fetal death
- Impaired immune system
The cost of treating these and other related diseases and illnesses is astronomical, not to mention the physical and emotional toll they so often take on victims. If you’ve fallen ill because of contamination of your drinking water, it is imperative that you speak with an attorney as soon as possible to determine what legal options may be at your disposal.
Legal Options for Victims of Camp Lejeune Toxic Water Contamination
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act was included as part of the Honoring our PACT Act, which seeks to ensure that military members, veterans, military families, contractors, and civil servants have access to the health care they need and deserve.
More specifically, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act created a legal pathway for those affected by Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water to sue the government for the damages they’ve suffered. These benefits are afforded to those who spent a period of at least 30 days at the base between 1953 and 1987. Civilians who worked at the base are eligible under this rule.
However, civilians who lived near the base and were otherwise exposed to TCE, PCE, vinyl chloride, and benzene may have far fewer options for compensation. If you developed a related sickness after living in Jacksonville, NC or near Military Base Camp Lejeune, we strongly encourage you to contact a lawyer as soon as possible. Most legal actions for these cases have a narrow timeframe in which you can take action.
Frost Law Firm, PC Is Here for You
If you are dealing with a serious health condition, you already know that time is precious. Your opportunity to take legal action for exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune is limited, and the longer you wait to take action, the more likely you are to lose out on your legal right to compensation.
Frost Law Firm, PC is here to help. On our team, we have Veteran’s Administration Accredited attorneys and local North Carolina attorneys to answer any questions you may have about any of the areas where you or a loved one may have been exposed to water contamination. To learn how we may be able to help, reach out to us.