In August of a recent year, the government created a pathway for service members and their families to file claims for the harm they endured due to their exposure to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune. Yet, although this is amazing news for many families, there are still a lot of unknowns regarding this Act and what it can ultimately mean for the millions of families affected.
That is why we have prepared the following guide. In it, we will walk you through the critical details of this Act, the Camp Lejeune water contamination timeline, which can provide you with a better understanding of what caused this devastating accident, and the things you can do to help you go after the justice and the financial damages you deserve.
- A Brief Overview of What Happened at Camp Lejeune
- The Source of the Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune
- The Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Timeline
- The Statute of Limitations To Bring a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit
- Do Not Wait To Pursue Your Camp Lejeune Lawsuit
- Questions and Answers About the Camp Lejeune Timeline
- 9. How Can an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Help You Fight for the Justice You Deserve?
A Brief Overview of What Happened at Camp Lejeune
In 1982, it was discovered that the drinking water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, was contaminated with over 70 hazardous chemicals and substances. This contamination started in the early 1950s, but the wells that contributed to this dangerous water continued to be used until 1987, way past the discovery of these harmful toxins.
As a result, millions of military personnel, their family members, and others who lived, stayed, or worked in the area were exposed to these toxic solvents and chemicals.
The Source of the Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune
During their investigation into the water, the Marine Corps discovered that the volatile organic compounds or VOCs in the water came from two of the treatment plants on base.
Tarawa Terrace Treatment Plant
This water treatment plant was primarily contaminated by PCE (perchloroethylene or tetrachloroethylene), and the source of the contamination came from the improper waste disposal practices of the off-base dry cleaning business ABC One-Hour Cleaners.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) determined that PCE concentrations in the drinking water from the Tarawa Terrace water treatment plant surpassed the EPA maximum contaminant level of 5 parts per billion from November 1957 through February 1987.
Hadnot Point Treatment Plant
The second source of the contamination came from the Hadnot Point water treatment plant, which was primarily contaminated with TCE (trichloroethylene). However, other toxins were also found in the water, including vinyl chloride, TCE degradation products trans-1,2-DCE (t-1,2-dichloroethylene), PCE, and benzene.
It was discovered that this well was contaminated by multiple different sources, including industrial area spills, waste disposal sites, and leaking underground storage tanks that exposed drinking water to these hazardous chemicals from August 1953 through January 1985.
The Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Timeline
The Camp Lejeune military base was built in 1942 in Jacksonville, North Carolina, to act as a military training facility. Millions of people worked and resided at this base and the nearby Marine Corps Air Station New River from 1953 through 1987.
The below timeline will go into more detail regarding the important dates that led to this water contamination.
The Tarawa Terrace Water Treatment Plant Starts Operating (1952)
In 1952, the Tarawa Terrace water treatment facility was built to provide fresh and clean water to the residents in the area, including those living and working at the Camp Lejeune base.
Contamination Starts in the Hadnot Point Water System (1953)
The Hadnot Point treatment facility was constructed in connection with Camp Lejeune to help provide the individuals living in the area with the safe water they needed. Unfortunately, according to the ATSDR, by 1953, hazardous solvents and chemicals had already affected the water being distributed through this treatment center.
Contamination Starts in the Tarawa Terrace Water System (1957)
Even though the Tarawa Terrace water treatment facility was developed concurrently with the Hadnot Point water treatment facility, it was not until four years later that Tarawa Terrace started to have issues with contaminated water. Based on analysis done by the ATSDR, the facility started distributing toxic water in November 1957.
Testing Reveals Toxic Water(1980 through 1982)
In October 1980, military chemists began sampling the water on the base, checking for certain chemicals in the water due to the stricter environmental regulations. Yet, while the first tests revealed that there were trace levels of dangerous solvents in the water, the Marines claimed they did not get these results until 1982, which meant that nothing was done for years to investigate this early contamination.
In addition, in the same month, the Army labs began testing the water from Hadnot Point's water system for hazardous chemical by-products of chlorination, which led to problematic results because it was discovered there were other chemicals in the water. As a result, the Army reported that the water was highly contaminated. However, most of the wells remained open.
In 1982, Grainger Laboratories was hired to test Camp Lejeune's water. Their chemists found that “synthetic organic cleaning solvents” polluted the water at two of the largest living bases, which housed thousands of Marines and their loved ones. The chemists urged the Marines to investigate and fix the issue quickly, but according to the chemists, the threat was not recognized, and nobody reacted.
The Government Tries to Figure Out the Extent of the Contaminated Water (1982 through 1984)
By now, the Marines knew the water at Camp Lejeune was toxic, but they did not know the scope of this contamination. Therefore, their next course of action was to explore the contamination sites, determine the source of this contamination, and test the wells.
Finally, in July of 1984, chemists began testing the wells directly, and the results revealed that one well had a chemical found in gasoline at a level that was incredibly high and should be immediately closed. However, it continued to be in use until November 1984
The Water Plants Are Shut Down (1985 through 1987)
The news of these toxins in the water soon became public, and by the end of 1984 and the beginning of 1985, ten wells were closed due to the dangerous levels of these solvents and toxins.
Worse yet, as news of this contamination spread, Camp Lejeune's commanding general at that time tried to reassure the residents on base that there were only trace contaminants found in the water. Unfortunately, this was not true. The level of these chemicals was so high that no scientist had ever seen these levels in a large public water system.
In addition, because of the time-consuming process of removing contaminants from the water, it was not until the end of 1987 that the water was finally safe. That is why under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, the period to pursue compensation for those who lived, worked, or were stationed at Camp Lejeune extends from August 1, 1953, through December 31, 1987.
The Safe Drinking Water Act Is Updated (1987- 1989)
Even though the Safe Drinking Water Act was created in 1972, it did not provide the standards for the chemicals detected in the water at Camp Lejeune, including TCE, benzene, and vinyl chloride. It was not until 1987 that this Act was updated with these hazardous substances and published in the Federal Register.
Notifications Begin of Health Risks (1999)
Almost two decades after the Marines first found out about the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, they finally started informing former tenants of their exposure to the toxic chemicals found on the base. Even today, the government does not have a good reason why there was such a delay in notifying these service members and others.
The First Camp Lejeune Contaminated Water Lawsuit is Filed (2009)
In 2009, the first individual to pursue a suit against the government for the toxic water at Camp Lejeune was Laura Jones, the wife of a former marine. She and her husband lived on base from 1980 until 1983. In the suit, Laura claimed she was exposed to these toxic chemicals and, as a result, developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
The Camp Lejeune Families Act Of 2012 Is Signed into Law (2012)
In 2012, President Barack Obama signed the “Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012.” Under this Act, service members who served at Camp Lejeune could begin to receive certain health benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs if they qualified under the eligibility requirements.
In addition, family members who qualified could also be compensated for certain costs associated with their qualifying condition through the Camp Lejeune Family Member Program (CLFMP).
Veterans Start Filing for VA Benefits Because of their Contaminated Water Exposure (2017)
The Department of Veterans Affairs issued a final rule in January 2017 that confirmed a presumptive service connection for compensation claims for those service members stationed at the Camp Lejeune base.
During this time, the VA began reviewing claims and paying those approved out of a $2.2 billion fund created to cover these allegations. Unfortunately, because of numerous legal issues involved with these claims, many Veterans and their families were denied money and suffered significant harm as a result.
Laws Open Up More Claims for Compensation (2021)
In 2021, new bills were introduced into Congress, such as the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, which aimed to remove certain legal technicalities that prevented numerous Camp Lejeune military service personnel and their loved ones from obtaining the monetary recovery that they needed.
However, the Act still imposed stringent eligibility requirements, including a time requirement that indicated that service members had to have been on the Camp Lejeune base for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, to be eligible to bring a claim. In addition, these service members also had to show a connection between the toxic water at Camp Lejeune and their health condition or disease.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 Passes (2022)
The U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate passed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 in early 2022. And on August 10, 2022, President Biden approved “The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promises to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022,” or PACT Act, which included the updated Camp Lejeune water contamination law.
Under this law, veterans and their loved ones could pursue financial damages for the harm they suffered due to their exposure to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune.
Camp Lejeune Today
While it may come as a surprise to many, due to the gravity of the situation, Camp Lejeune remains open.
In fact, the facility currently holds:
- 38,778 active duty members
- 38,769 family members
- 3,349 civilian
- 18,719 retirees and family members
Thankfully, water reports indicate that the water is not only safe to drink, use, and bathe in, but testing is done more frequently to ensure that these levels are maintained.
The Statute of Limitations To Bring a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit
Although this Act allows countless service members and their families to pursue legal action to secure the money they need for everything they suffered, they need to understand that this time is limited. According to the Act, qualified individuals will only have two years to pursue a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit from the date the Act was signed, or August 10, 2022. If they do not file within this time period, they can be barred from obtaining the money they desperately need and deserve.
That is why, if you believe that you are qualified to pursue a Camp Lejeune lawsuit, reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney today. These lawyers can make sure your legal documents are appropriately prepared and submitted before this time expires.
Do Not Wait To Pursue Your Camp Lejeune Lawsuit
If you want to learn more about your legal rights and the options available to you regarding a Camp Lejeune lawsuit, contact an experienced personal injury today. These lawyers can not only determine whether you qualify under this Act and figure out your next steps, but they can also help you go after the maximum recovery you and your family deserve.
Questions and Answers About the Camp Lejeune Timeline
In addition to the questions individuals have regarding the timeline of Camp Lejeune and what caused this tragic incident to happen in the first place, there are numerous other inquiries that victims of this horrifying ordeal have, especially regarding their legal choices and the specifics of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act.
That is why below, we will go over some of these concerns and provide you with responses that can help you better understand your legal options, the financial remedies you can pursue, and how an experienced personal injury attorney can help you through this devastating situation.
1. Who Can Pursue a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit?
If you suffered an illness or disease because of your exposure to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune, you may be able to recover financial damages for the harm you endured, as long as you qualify based on the eligibility requirements.
You should also note that these damages extend to not only service members but veterans, loved ones, and civilian contractors who lived, stayed, or were otherwise present at Camp Lejeune during the time specified in the Act. However, military personnel who were dishonorably discharged and their family members will not qualify for these benefits, even if this contaminated water harmed them.
Yet, if you want to know with certainty whether you are able to pursue this lawsuit, it may be a good idea to discuss your case with an experienced personal injury attorney. These lawyers can go over your situation with you in detail, determine if you qualify based on the requirements in the Act, and help you go after total compensation for your harm and losses.
2. How Do You Know If You Qualify To File a Camp Lejeune Claim?
You may file a Camp Lejeune lawsuit if you or a family member:
- Were exposed to the toxic Camp Lejeune water for at least 30 days between August 1, 1952, and December 31, 1987
- Suffered severe health issues or cancer related to the water contamination at Camp Lejeune, such as one of the following presumptive conditions
Presumptive Conditions That Qualify
- Adult leukemia
- Parkinson's disease
- Liver cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
Based on these new guidelines, a presumptive condition means that qualified individuals with one of these diseases only need to show that they were stationed at Camp Lejeune for the indicated time period to receive benefits for their harm and losses.
Other Non-Presumptive Conditions
However, veterans and their loved ones may also receive free health care if they suffered certain other types of serious health conditions. And while these illnesses and health problems do not qualify for presumptive disability compensation, qualifying individuals who have one of the below conditions can file a legal suit to recover benefits for their harm and losses because there are links that show that these diseases can stem from the toxins in the water.
These conditions include:
- Bladder cancer
- Breast cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Female infertility
- Hepatic steatosis
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Neurobehavioral effects
- Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
- Renal toxicity
- Kidney cancer
- Lung cancer
- Multiple myeloma
Plus, if your family member, who stayed at the base during the required time period, suffered from any of these conditions and had to pay bills related to their treatments, they may be able to obtain reimbursement for the expenses they paid that were not covered by insurance.
As you can see, determining whether you can pursue this lawsuit is not easy and often requires an in-depth analysis of the law and your medical history. For these reasons, if you believe you may have a viable Camp Lejeune claim, it is recommended you reach out to a knowledgeable personal injury attorney as soon as possible. These lawyers can help you determine whether you qualify based on the requirements and discuss with you what your next steps should be.
3. What Types of Financial Damages Can You Receive From a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit?
If you qualify to bring a Camp Lejeune lawsuit, you may be able to obtain certain financial damages for the losses and harm you endured because of your exposure to the contaminated water.
This includes money for your:
- Medical bills related to your doctor and hospital visits, prescriptions, hospice care, emergency medical treatments, surgeries, and other medical help
- Ongoing medical treatments
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity
- Other types of emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life or a declining quality
Thankfully, when you work with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney, you will not have to determine which of these damages may apply to your case. Rather, these lawyers can handle this for you. They can also calculate the total losses you endured and make sure that you go after the maximum financial damages you deserve.
4. If You Have Received Other Types of Benefits for Your Health Condition, Can You Still File a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit?
You still may be able to pursue a Camp Lejeune lawsuit and obtain financial damages, even if you received other types of benefits or continue to receive these benefits because of your condition. It should be noted, however, that your recovery may be offset by the benefits you previously received.
For more clarity regarding your ability to pursue a Camp Lejeune claim and its effect on your other benefits, you should go over your situation with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can help you understand what impacts you may be looking at.
5. How Can You Prove Your Injuries Are Related to the Contaminated Water at Camp Lejeune?
To obtain compensation for your illnesses and losses due to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, you will have to provide evidence that this water likely caused your injuries or diseases.
This documentation can include:
- Your military records showing that you served at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River for at least 30 days from August 1953 until December 1987
- Proof of residence records that show you lived at the base for the required time period
- An official diagnosis from a healthcare professional
- Your VA medical record, medical statements, doctor notes, test results, and other evidence establishing a link between your condition and the contaminated water
- Your medical expenses showing how much you had to pay for treatment related to your condition
- Evidence of your disability benefits
- Proof of work for those employees who worked at Camp Lejeune during the time period in question
Additionally, if you believe you are a qualified family member under the new Act, gather the following evidence:
- Proof of your relationship with the service member who served at Camp Lejeune, including a birth certificate or marriage license.
- Proof documenting you lived on the base for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.
- Proof of the money you paid on treatments for the covered conditions.
Fortunately, when you retain an experienced personal injury attorney to help you with your Camp Lejeune lawsuit, these lawyers can let you know precisely what types of documentation you should obtain and can even help you gather these documents so that they can prepare the most solid legal claim on your behalf.
6. How Much Money Will You Be Able to Get When You File a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit?
Although it is still too soon to know how much money qualified individuals may be able to receive for the harm and injuries they suffered because of their toxic water exposure at Camp Lejeune, this compensation will likely depend on various factors, including:
- The condition the individual was diagnosed with and the severity of this injury
- The amount of income the individual lost from not being able to work because of their condition
- The length of time the individual was exposed to the contaminated water
- The total estimated cost of the medical expenses
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Other types of financial damages sustained
When you have a personal injury attorney working on your Camp Lejeune lawsuit, it can ease the pressure of you having to keep up to date on what is going on with this issue and the new information coming out. Rather, these lawyers can stay abreast of this information for you and make sure your suit is prepared properly no matter what details emerge.
7. How Much Will It Cost To Pursue a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit?
Because a personal injury attorney works on a contingency fee basis, you will typically not have to pay anything upfront to pursue this lawsuit. Plus, these attorneys will not get to recover any of their fees until they settle your case or recover compensation through a court judgment on your behalf. If they accomplish neither of these, then you will not have to pay their fees.
Yet, if you want further clarification regarding these expenses, it is a good idea to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. These attorneys can go over their fee arrangement with you, tell you exactly what you can expect in terms of their fees, and explain how they can help you secure the money you need.
8. If Your Loved One Died Because of Their Condition That Resulted From Exposure To Contaminated Water at Camp Lejeune, What Legal Action Can You Take?
If the eligibility requirements are met, surviving family members of those who died because of their condition that was due to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune can pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the government and go after monetary damages for the harm and losses they suffered because of this death, even if it happened many years ago.
However, to determine if you personally qualify for this wrongful death claim, you should speak with an experienced personal injury attorney who has experience handling these complicated types of claims. These lawyers can not only figure out if you can pursue this type of legal suit, but they can also help you prepare the required documentation and make sure it is filed before time expires.
9. How Can an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Help You Fight for the Justice You Deserve?
If you are dealing with a devastating condition or disease because of your exposure to contaminated water from Camp Lejeune, now is the time to fight back and go after the financial recovery and justice you deserve.
More importantly, when an experienced personal injury attorney takes on this fight for you, you will not have to deal with this complex and overwhelming ordeal on your own.
Instead, once these legal professionals are retained, they can:
- Figure out if you meet the eligibility requirements of the Act, and help you pursue medical coverage by filing your Camp Lejeune claim.
- Help you understand your legal options as well as the overall process when it comes to these claims.
- Assist you with appealing your claim if it has been denied.
- Gather evidence and further information regarding your time at Camp Lejeune and how exposure to this contaminated water has impacted your life and your future.
- Assist you in gathering the required medical documents and other records, including tests and doctor reports showing that your illness or condition resulted from your exposure to the toxic water.
- Hire additional medical experts to substantiate your claim and help prove what happened.
- Prepare a convincing legal case explaining everything you endured because of your toxic water exposure at Camp Lejeune.
- File a lawsuit if the other side is unwilling to provide you with the money you need and go after maximum financial damages.
If you believe that you or a loved one has a viable Camp Lejeune claim, do not wait to get your questions answered. Instead, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer today for a free case evaluation and learn how these attorneys can help you.