The Camp Lejeune water contamination is a decades-long environmental disaster that exposed military personnel, their families, and civilians to toxic chemicals in the drinking water on the base. The contamination has been connected to a wide array of severe ailments, including cancer, birth defects, and other serious illnesses.
In recent years, there have been numerous lawsuits filed by those impacted by the contamination seeking justice and compensation for the harm caused to their health and well-being.
This article aims to provide an overview of the latest updates, legal proceedings, and potential outcomes of the Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuits.
Background Information on the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
Camp Lejeune is a US Marine Corps base in North Carolina that was contaminated with toxins in its water supply from the 1950s till the 1980s. The contamination is believed to have come from multiple sources, including leaking underground storage tanks and industrial dumping.
The chemicals found in the water include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE), as well as benzene and other hazardous substances.
The contamination has been found to cause a diverse array of health problems, including various types of cancer, neurological disorders, and reproductive issues. According to The Carolina Journal, approximately 500,000 veterans who were stationed at Camp Lejeune are believed to be suffering from illnesses caused by drinking contaminated water while at the military base.
North Carolina has around 642,000 veterans, a significant number of whom spent time at Camp Lejeune during the period of water contamination from industrial solvents.
To date, almost 20,000 administrative claims have been submitted by victims of Camp Lejeune, but none have been fully resolved. Additionally, more than 100 lawsuits have been filed in North Carolina federal court.
A Timeline of Events Related to the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
In 1982, it was discovered that drinking water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated with various hazardous chemicals, including trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), and benzene. The contamination was linked to activities at the base dating back to the 1950s, including the disposal of industrial solvents and fuels.
Military personnel, their families, and civilian employees at the base used the contaminated water for drinking, cooking, and bathing. As a result, many people were exposed to the chemicals, leading to numerous health problems.
In 1999, the US Marine Corps started informing former residents of the base that they may have consumed contaminated water. This notification was prompted by a federal health study that investigated potential birth defects among children born at the base during the years of contamination.
Before this notification, many families who may have been affected by the contaminated water had attributed any rare illnesses or cancers in their families to just bad luck.
In 2012, the Camp Lejeune Families Act was signed into law. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs noted that the Act provides that Veterans who served on active duty at Camp Lejeune were eligible to receive all their health care (excluding dental care) from the VA.
This benefit can be obtained regardless of whether they have a health condition that is presumed to be related to exposure or not. In addition, those with one of the 15 medical conditions believed to be related to exposure do not have to pay for care.
In 2017, as noted by JD Supra, the Department of Veterans Affairs released a final rule which established presumptive service connection for compensation claims from service members stationed at Camp Lejeune. The VA started receiving claims and utilized a $2.2 billion fund to pay approved claims over the following five years. However, several veterans who appeared to qualify for compensation were denied it because of legal obstacles encountered during the process.
Updates on the Current Status of the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit
As of April 2023, the Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit is ongoing, with thousands of plaintiffs seeking compensation for illnesses and health conditions related to exposure to the contaminated water.
According to TorHoerman Law, a law firm, on April 15th, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a motion to extend the deadline for filing answers to Camp Lejeune complaints until May 31st, 2023. This motion was unopposed. The court approved the motion to extend the deadline until May 31st, 2023, on the same day the request was submitted.
The law firm adds that filing a Camp Lejeune Claim may be possible if you or someone you know resided or worked at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more between 1953 and 1987.
Analysis of the Challenges and Complexities Involved in Seeking Justice
Seeking justice for the Camp Lejeune water contamination victims poses several challenges and complexities. One of the main difficulties is proving causation, as the health effects associated with the contaminated water may take years or even decades to manifest.
Additionally, government agencies such as the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs have been criticized for their handling of the situation. There have been noted delays in acknowledging the problem and providing adequate medical care to affected individuals.
The many people involved in the lawsuit and the complexity of the legal process can also create challenges for plaintiffs and their legal representation. Overall, the Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit highlights the difficulties in seeking justice for victims of environmental disasters and the need for improved government oversight and accountability.