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For more than 30 years, the water supply at Camp Lejeune — a Marine Corp base in Jacksonville, North Carolina — contained harmful levels of water contaminants. The CDC has stated that up to one million military and civilian staff and their families may have been exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.
Exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune has been linked to cancer and other serious diseases, disorders, and health conditions. For years, military members and civilians that were harmed due to their exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune were unable to recover full compensation for their losses.
Those who were harmed by the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune may finally be able to obtain the compensation they deserve. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, which is expected to be signed into law, allows individuals exposed to contaminated water to bring a private lawsuit for their injuries.
The known Camp Lejeune water contamination came from two of the base’s water supply systems: Hadnot Point, which began operating in 1942, and Tarawa Terrace, which began operating in 1952.
The Tarawa Terrace water system was contaminated by ABC One-Hour Cleaners, an off-base dry cleaner, through improper disposal practices and spills of chemicals used in the dry cleaning process. Hadnot Point was contaminated by multiple sources, including on-base industrial spills, leaks, and waste disposal sites.
The most contaminated wells in each system were shut down between 1984 and 1985, and the Tarawa Terrace system was shut down completely in 1987.
Exposure to contaminated water occurs through contact or ingestion of the contaminated water. Drinking, cooking, bathing, and washing clothes in contaminated water were some of the ways those living and working at Camp Lejeune may have been exposed.
The toxic substances in the water at Camp Lejeune were volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Certain types of VOCs can increase the likelihood of certain cancers, harm organs, and cause other health issues for adults and children. The EPA sets standards for the maximum amount of certain VOCs that can be in drinking water and still be considered safe.
The main water contaminant in the Hadnot Point system was TCE (trichloroethylene). Other contaminants found in its water supply included CE (perchloroethylene or tetrachloroethylene), DCE (trans-1,2-dichloroethylene), vinyl chloride, and benzene. The current maximum level of TCE in drinking water is 5 parts per billion (ppb). At its worst, in May 1982, there was nearly 300 times that amount (1,400 ppb) detected in the Hadnot Point system.
The main water contaminant in the Tarawa Terrace system was PCE. At its worst, in May 1982, the level of TCE detected was 215 ppb. The current maximum level of PCE for water to still be considered safe is 5 ppb.
The contaminated water at Camp Lejeune has been linked to a variety of serious health issues for military members, civilian workers, and their families (including children) who worked or lived on the base during the years the water was contaminated. The Camp Lejeune cancer risk for both disease and death has been established by studies.
The Veteran’s Administration’s approach to providing disability benefits provides insight into some of the diseases and disorders that have been linked to water at Camp Lejeune. For disability purposes, the VA presumes the following conditions are linked to exposure to contaminated water for veterans who were at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1953 and December 1987:
VA policies provide cost-free treatment for the following conditions for those who were at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1953 and December 1987:
This is not an exhaustive list of medical diseases and conditions that may have been caused by contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. Additional studies on the effects of the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune continue to be conducted.
There is no current Camp Lejeune Class Action lawsuit. In fact, when hundreds of lawsuits were previously brought after workers and residents learned about the contamination and link to health issues, their cases were dismissed due to governmental immunities and statute of limitations or statute or repose issues. This effectively prevented those that had suffered as a result of being exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune from bringing a lawsuit of any kind.
However, in large part due to those who were harmed not being able to pursue a lawsuit, the Congress has proposed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, which, if passed, will allow contamination victims to sue.
If the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 is signed into law, anyone who was exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune water for at least 30 days between 1953 and 1987 may bring a lawsuit. This may include in utero-exposure. To win the suit, claimants must prove their exposure and that they suffered harm caused by, associated with, or linked to exposure to the contaminated water. They must also prove that this exposure increased the likelihood of such harm.
Studies can be used to prove the link between the water and the harm suffered. If the person who suffered harm as a result of the contamination exposure is deceased, a representative can bring the suit on their behalf.
Since no lawsuits have been filed under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 yet, it is too early to provide a reliable estimate regarding the Camp Lejeune water contamination settlement amounts. Settlement amounts will depend on the proven harm suffered through exposure to the contaminated water.
There are strict deadlines for filing a lawsuit under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022. It is important to act quickly if you think you may have a claim. Those who have already developed health conditions because of their exposure must file suit within two years of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 passing. Those who have not yet developed cancer or other health conditions caused by exposure to the contaminated water must file suit within two years of their diagnosis.
Additionally, before filing suit, harmed individuals must first file an administrative “claim” with the government. This gives the agency an opportunity to potentially resolve some claims without the necessity of a lawsuit.
Due to the complexities and uncertainty involved, the best first step towards filing a claim is to speak with a law firm experienced in large-scale, multi-jurisdictional cases, like the Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit. Gomez Trial Attorneys have experience with class action and mass tort cases, regularly litigating personal injury lawsuits nationwide. Gomez Trial Attorneys has a nationally recognized team of trial attorneys who have won hundreds of millions of dollars for their clients.
If you think you were exposed to contaminated water while at Camp Lejeune, contact Gomez Trial Attorneys today for a free case evaluation.
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