Plantation residents exposed to toxic drinking water
can now file suit. Attorney Rick Ellsley can help you.
Camp Lejeune was built during WWII as an amphibious East Coast training center for the U.S. Military. Miles of forested terrain, an extensive coastline, and close proximity to port cities Willmington and Morehead City made the site at Jacksonville, North Carolina an ideal location for the modest base. Since then, the military has expanded the infrastructure at Camp Lejeune exponentially and housed thousands of service members and their families. Today, the base is at the center of a public health concern that has affected up to 1.3 million military members and their families who resided or worked at Camp Lejeune from 1953 to 1987.
In August of 2022, President Biden signed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act into law. The new legislation creates a path for those who were exposed to contaminated drinking water at the base to receive compensation for their injuries.
Toxic chemicals discovered at Camp Lejeune
The U.S. government currently faces civil liability as a result of behaving negligently regarding a hazard that was discovered at Camp Lejeune decades ago. In 1982, the U.S. Marine Corps detected toxic chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune. More specifically, the detected chemicals included:
- vinyl chloride
BENZENE: USES & HEALTH EFFECTS
Benzene is primarily used as an intermediate in making other chemicals. The American Cancer Society reported in 1988 that two-thirds of all chemicals the organization lists as carcinogenic contained at least a small amount of benzene. Carcinogens are chemicals that increase the risk of cancer and other illnesses in humans. Benzene often is used in the production of nylon, resins and synthetic fibers. The chemical compound also raises the octane level of gasoline.
TETRACHLOROETHYLENE: USES & HEALTH EFFECTS
Tetrachloroethylene, also referred to as PCE, is most often used in dry cleaning and in mechanical settings as a degreaser for metal parts. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies PCE as "probably carcinogenic to humans," meaning the chemical likely causes cancer. In addition to potentially causing cancer, PCE can also depress the central nervous system. Camp LeJeune residents and workers may have been exposed to the chemical by drinking or bathing in contaminated water as PCE can also enter the body through the skin and respiratory system.
TRICHLOROETHYLENE: USES & HEALTH EFFECTS
Similar to PCE, trichloroethylene (TCE), is also most widely used as a degreaser. Past applications have included use as a volatile anesthetic, an extractor of vegetable oils from plant materials, an extractor of caffeine to decaffeinate coffee, and a dry cleaning solvent. Exposure to TCE can depress the central nervous system and have toxic effects on the liver and kidneys. National Cancer Institute studies have shown TCE to be carcinogenic in animals. Based on limited studies in humans and more comprehensive animal studies, the institute "reasonably anticipates" that TCE can cause cancer in humans.
VINYL CHLORIDE: USES & HEALTH EFFECTS
Vinyl chloride (VCM) is extremely hazardous in nature. Therefore, it is most often used as a precursor to PVC. In decades past, VCM has been used as an aerosol spray propellant, an inhalational anesthetic, and a refrigerant. Potential adverse health reactions to VCM exposure are numerous. Classified as a Group 1 carcinogen, VCM poses an elevated risk of angiosarcoma, lung tumors, brain tumors, and malignant hematopoietic lymphatic tumors. Chronic exposure can cause respiratory failure and hepatotoxicity. Continuous exposure can depress the central nervous system and cause decreased male libido, miscarriage, and birth defects. Test animals exposed to VCM developed cancerous tumors. Liver toxicity has been a known hazard of vinyl chloride exposure since as early as the 1930s.
Toxic exposure from 1953 to 1987
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act covers families and individuals who lived at Camp LeJeune from 1953 to 1987. It is believed that during the specified time period, military service members, personnel, and their families bathed in and drank water that was contaminated with toxins at 240 to 3,400 times the levels permitted by safety guidelines. Specifically, two of the base's eight water treatment plants on the base are believed to have been contaminated. Although the main contaminants have been identified as VOCs, more than 70 chemical contaminants were discovered at Camp Lejeune. In the 1980s, the base began detecting chemicals in the water as part of an effort to comply with new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) testing standards. By the mid-1980s, the base's water wells were shut off and placed back online to meet federal standards. The wells were subsequently brought back online in violation of the law.
Premises liability at Camp Lejeune
The U.S. government is responsible for making reasonable efforts to keep people who live and work on U.S. military bases safe from hazards on the land. The toxic exposure that took place at Camp Lejeune over the span of four decades is legally classified as a premises liability case. Landowners are responsible for injuries caused by foreseeable hazards on their property. Residents and workers on military bases are termed invitees because they are present on the property to conduct transactions or other otherwise fulfill a purpose that is predetermined by the property owner. Invitees are owed the highest level of duty when it comes to protecting guests from hazards on a property.
The U.S. government breached its duty
Due to the nature of a military base, residents and workers can reasonably be expected to use the water supply for drinking, bathing, and handwashing. Therefore, military bases are responsible for providing a clean, safe, consistent water supply for people who live and work onsite. It is reasonable for Camp Lejeune residents and personnel to have expected the federal government to consistently test water levels and to eliminate contamination immediately if detected. The government also has a duty to notify people who live and work on the base of the potential hazard and to remove access to the hazard while working to implement a solution. For four decades, the U.S. government breached its duty to protect residents and personnel from water contaminants by failing to properly detect and remedy the hazard. The government also failed to notify residents and workers on the base in the interest of preventing them from being exposed to the hazardous toxins over the years. In 2007, a retired Marine officer found a document dated 1981 that described a radioactive dumpsite that was located near a rifle range on the base. An advocacy group was formed to notify former residents of their potential exposure to contaminated drinking water.
A breach of duty at Camp Lejeune potentially caused injury to millions
In 1999, the United States Marine Corps began notifying past Camp Lejeune residents that they may have been exposed to contaminated water. The notifications went out as part of a federal health study on possible birth defects among children who were born at the base during the years the water was contaminated. Prior to the notification, families commonly attributed the birth defects and illnesses they had experienced to bad luck. In 2008, Congress began requiring the US Marine Corps to notify former residents about past exposure to contaminated water while on the base. As part of the notification requirement, there is an online registry of water contamination exposure victims that currently has more than 135,000 names.
Legal remedy for Camp Lejeune toxic exposure victims
Individuals and families now have legal recourse if they or their loved one has experienced a health condition due to toxic exposure at Camp Lejeune. Service members who served at Camp LeJeune for at least 30 cumulative days from August 1953 to December 1987 may be eligible for a disability benefit and compensation for injuries caused by exposure to contaminated water on base. Veterans, reservists, and guardsmen may be eligible to receive healthcare benefits and compensation related to the toxic exposure if they have been diagnosed with one of or more of the following conditions:
- aplastic anemia
- other myelodysplastic syndromes
- bladder cancer
- liver cancer
- kidney cancer
- multiple myeloma
- non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
- Parkinson's disease
Veterans and their family members may also be eligible to receive benefits for their past exposure to toxins at Camp Lejeune. They may also receive back pay for past treatment for:
- bladder cancer
- breast cancer
- esophegeal cancer
- hepatic steatosis
- kidney cancer
- lung cancer
- multiple myeloma
- myelodysplastic syndromes
- neurobehavioral effects
- non-Hodgkins lymphoma
- renal toxicity
Plantation injury attorney for Camp Lejeune toxic exposure victims
Victims who suspect they have become ill due to toxic exposure at Camp Lejeune may be entitled to compensation and medical care. Surviving family members of toxic exposure victims may also be entitled to compensation for their loved one's injuries. To learn more about the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, contact injury attorney Rick Ellsley. The Ellsley Law Firm is available for a free case evaluation, and can guide you in seeking the compensation you deserve.