For the Veterans and active-duty service members who served at Camp Lejeune Marine base during the 1950s through 1980s and their families who lived on the base, just drinking the water was dangerous. In 1982, the Marine Corps became aware that the water distributed by certain water treatment plants on the base was contaminated by toxic chemicals, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
Those serving our country have already made so many sacrifices, yet this exposure to toxic chemicals in drinking water has put their health and their lives at risk—even years after they were discharged. Former service members and their families who have suffered serious harm due to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune deserve compensation for the life-changing losses and damages they have sustained.
Our Camp Lejeune lawyers are dedicated to helping victims of toxic exposure get every dollar of compensation they’re entitled to. Use this timeline as a resource as you learn more about what happened at Camp Lejeune and whether your family may be eligible for financial compensation through a Camp Lejeune lawsuit . Then contact the law firm of Console & Associates, P.C. to learn more about Camp Lejeune class action lawsuits and individual lawsuit claims and to get your case started at no cost.
Camp Lejeune marine base opened in 1942.
At this time, contamination of Camp Lejeune drinking water is believed to have started in August 1953 and to have persisted through 1987.
According to the U.S. Marine Corps, the water at the military base has been considered safe to drink “since at least March 1987.”
Camp Lejeune, a U.S. Marine Corps Base that would later expose those living and working there to water contaminated with toxic chemicals over a period of decades, was established in 1941 and opened in 1942. The military base is located in Onslow County in the southeastern region of North Carolina.
Upon the construction of family housing in the Tarawa Terrace area of the base, the Tarawa Terrace water treatment facility began operating to distribute water to these residents. In only a few short years, the water treated and distributed by the facility would become contaminated.
Data analysis and modeling by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry indicated that, by August 1953, the water distributed through the Hadnot Point water system—which had been in operation since the base opened—was already affected by the toxic chemicals.
By November 1957, water processed through the Tarawa Terrace treatment and distribution system is thought to have been contaminated, based on the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s data analysis.
A new water system opened in 1972, serving areas that included Paradise Point, Midway Park, and Berkeley Manor—areas previously served by the Hadnot Point water system. Although water treated and distributed by the Holcomb Boulevard system itself was considered “generally not contaminated,” it was, unfortunately, supplemented by contaminated water from the Hadnot Point water system at times. As such, Veterans and their families served by this water system may still have been exposed to toxic chemicals.
Drinking water is considered contaminated when it contains contaminants at levels that are above the limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency. In 1979, the EPA established safe levels of chemicals known as THMs as well as TCE. 1980 brought another EPA publication of safe drinking water levels, this time concerning a chemical solvent known as PCE.
During 1980 and 1981, the Marine Corps sampled drinking water at Camp Lejeune to test for THMs, per the EPA standards. However, this testing instead detected “other chemicals [that] interfered with results” of the tests for THMs, the U.S. Marine Corps reported.
Through additional water testing, the Marine Corps identified the contaminants TCE and PCE, detected at levels above the EPA standards for safe drinking water, in the water supply of two of the eight water treatment plants on the base in 1982.
The Marine Corps now knew that contamination was a problem in the water supply on Camp Lejeune, but the next step was investigating to determine what sites were contaminated. From 1982 through 1984, the focus—initiated by the Navy— was on identifying sites of potential contamination and testing the nearby drinking water wells for contaminants.
The “most contaminated” wells on Camp Lejeune base—10 of them—were shut down by 1985, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. However, it wasn’t until the end of 1987 that the danger was considered sufficiently passed that Veterans and their families were no longer considered exposed to the contaminated water for the purpose of disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs and health benefits from the Camp Lejeune family members program.
Although the Safe Drinking Water Act had been passed in 1972, standards for the levels of TCE, vinyl chloride, and benzene—all of which were among the chemicals detected in contaminated water at Camp Lejeune—were not included in this legislation. However, in 1987, regulations pertaining to these chemicals were published in the Federal Register, to become effective in 1989.
Not until 1999, 17 years after the Marine Corps was first made aware of contamination of the water on the base, did the military branch start notifying Veterans, active-duty service members, and their families who had lived on the base of the potential toxic exposure.
Laura Jones, the wife of a Marine, became the first person to file a lawsuit against the United States government over the water contamination at Camp Lejeune.
Once President Barack Obama signed the “Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for
Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012” into law, Veterans who had trained or served at Camp Lejeune and met eligibility requirements (for service and qualifying medical conditions) could start receiving health care related to these conditions from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Eligible family members could also be reimbursed for health care costs pertaining to qualifying conditions through the Camp Lejeune family member program.
As of January 2017, the Department of Veterans Affairs published its final rule establishing presumptive service connection in claims for compensation and began accepting claims for compensation, paying claims out of a $2.2 billion fund intended to cover claims over the next five years, according to North Carolina news source WITN. Also in January 2017, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry published its assessment of the evidence pertaining to drinking water contaminants as causes of specific diseases, including cancers.
However, under legal technicalities, some Veterans and families were unable to move forward with claims, despite suffering considerable harm.
Learn more about the health consequences of water comsumption at Camp Lejeune.
In 2021, bills like the Camp Lejeune Justice Act were introduced into Congress that, if passed, would remove some of the loopholes and technicalities that are currently preventing many Camp Lejeune Veterans and their families from receiving financial compensation.
Given the severity of the harm attributed to Camp Lejeune contamination—and the decades over which this toxic exposure persisted—people naturally have concerns about the current operations of the military base. Is Camp Lejeune closed? Is Camp Lejeune water still contaminated?
Camp Lejeune is still open. In fact, the U.S. Department of Defense lists 38,778 active-duty service members, 38,769 family members, 3,349 civilian employees, and 18,719 retirees and family members as making up the population of the base as of 2022.
What can potential claimants and victims of toxic water contamination exposure expect going forward? Camp Lejeune 2022 developments will likely depend on the passage of pending legislation that could open the door for new claims that had previously been barred from proceeding due to legal technicalities.
Although more than a year has elapsed since the Camp Lejeune Justice Act was introduced, the Camp Lejeune bill hasn’t been forgotten. Congressional representatives across the country are still pushing to move the legislation forward, as evidenced by Senator Mark Rubio’s May 2022 article in The Hill urging the passage of the Camp Lejeune bill.
Legal technicalities have barred many Camp Lejeune Vets and their families from pursuing the compensation they deserved. Others may only have a short time to take action before deadlines close, assuming other legal loopholes aren’t used to deny claims on behalf of Veterans and their families who were exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune and who developed medical conditions associated with exposure to these chemicals.
However, promising new legislation is currently pending that, if passed, could open the doors for claimants whose cases had previously been barred due to technicalities. For example, under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2021, introduced in the House of Representatives in March 2021, the government would be prohibited from “asserting specified immunity” from Camp Lejeune lawsuits.
As a Camp Lejeune Vet or family member, you don’t have to wait until this ongoing legislation passes to start learning about your legal rights and the options that may be available to you. In fact, the sooner you speak to a personal injury attorney who is knowledgeable about this unique legal matter, the sooner you can get your questions answered and know what to expect.
The Camp Lejeune lawyers at Console & Associates, P.C. are standing by to help Veterans and their families recover the compensation they deserve. To learn more about Camp Lejeune lawsuit claims and have your case reviewed at no cost, call (866) 778-5500 today.