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CAMP LEJUNE

From 1953 until 1987, members of the Marine Corps and their families were exposed to contaminated drinking water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The specific contaminants within Camp Lejeune’s drinking water are linked to numerous illnesses including multiple forms of cancer.

 

Until recently, the law provided little recourse to the individuals who were exposed to the contaminants. In August of 2022, however, the federal government enacted the “Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022” that provides a means by which veterans and/or their family members can, first, file an administrative claim for relief and, second, file a lawsuit if that administrative claim is denied.

In order to participate in the program established by the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, veterans or their family members must have lived or worked on Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 for at least thirty days. It was during that time period only that individuals would have been exposed to contaminated drinking water.

 

The illnesses caused by exposure to these chemicals may include the following:

  • Miscarried pregnancy

  • Kidney Cancer

  • Adult Leukemia

  • Multiple Myeloma

  • Esophageal Cancer

  • Pancreatic Cancer

  • Soft Tissue Cancer

  • Birth defects

  • Liver Cancer

  • Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

  • MDS

  • Breast Cancer

  • Prostate Cancer

  • Multiple Sclerosis

  • Female infertility

  • Bladder Cancer

  • Hodgkin's Lymphoma

  • Cervical Cancer

  • Lung Cancer

  • Rectal Cancer

The contaminants known to have been present in the Camp Lejune drinking water include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Tricloroethylene (TCE)

  • Tetrachloroethylene (PCE)

  • Benzene

  • Vinyl chloride

Each of these contaminants has a "maximum contaminant level" in drinking water above which point the federal government recognizes it risks causing diseases (such as cancer) in human beings. The maximum contaminant level for both TCE and PCE, for example, is five (5) parts per billion. But these levels of acceptable contamination were exceeded as early as 1953 and continued to persist in the Camp Lejeune groundwater until the mid-1980s—which explains the time period in which one must have lived or worked on base to participate in the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. In fact, a 2017 report commissioned by the federal government revealed that TCE contamination levels of the water within the Hadnot Point distribution system reached as high as high as 1,400 parts per billion in 1982—or 2,800 times the acceptable limit of contamination. This treatment plant provided drinking water to the main portion of the base at Camp Lejeune, including most of the barracks and workplaces.

 

The same 2017 report reviewed the scientific connection linking the four major contaminants found in the Camp Lejeune water to fifteen different illnesses. All fifteen illnesses were found to have at least some scientific evidence linking exposure to sickness though some evidence was either inconsistent or insufficient to produce a scientific conclusion.

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It should be noted that instances in which the report found scientific evidence either too inconsistent or insufficient to prove a link between exposure to the chemical and the disease does not mean that the link does not exist. Additional studies have taken place since this report was produced nearly six years ago. And additional cancers and other illnesses are being investigated in the Camp Lejeune Justice Act litigation. 

There is a two year “statute of limitations” in which individuals must file a claim under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act or be forever barred from doing so. This two year period of time began to run on the date the Act was signed into law: August 10, 2022. No claims will be allowed after August 10, 2024. Thus time is of the essence and you should contact an attorney quickly if you think you may be entitled to compensation. 

While the Camp Lejeune Justice Act permits civil claims to be filed on behalf of service members or their families, a claimant still must prove the scientific link between his or her exposure to Camp Lejeune water and the illness that they developed. Likely, this proof will be provided with a team of experts experienced in groundwater contamination, the effects of toxic chemicals on the body, and the causation of cancer and other serious illnesses. No claim will be guaranteed a positive result. Thus it is important to hire attorneys experienced in complex cases who have the ability to represent you with competence and determination.

Harris, Graves & Williams, LLC practices law in South Carolina.  Camp Lejune clients and 3M Combat earplug clients are being represented in concert with the law firm of Chappell, Smith & Arden, P.A.  The firms are experienced in representing injured parties in complex litigation, mass tort litigation, class actions and product liability.

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