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For over 30 years, one million servicemembers and civilians at a North Carolina military base unknowingly drank from and worked with a contaminated water supply. Many later developed severe health problems after the exposure. Thanks to a new law, they can now sue the federal government for failing to protect them. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act was signed into law on August 10, 2022, creating an exception to the rule that military members cannot file lawsuits for injuries sustained while serving. 

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act is part of the Honoring Our PACT Act, which expands resources and services for veterans exposed to toxic substances while serving in the military. Before the bill’s signing, those injured by chemicals in the Camp Lejeune water weren’t able to pursue legal action and recover damages from the government for its potential negligence. Now, they can file Camp Lejeune lawsuits in federal court, once the procedural hurdles are satisfied.

Camp Lejeune Contamination

Testing in the 1980s found that two of the water treatment plants on the Camp Lejeune military base contained volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs have a high vapor pressure and low water solubility and are emitted into the air as a gas. These compounds are harmful and aren’t intended for human consumption. Tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, benzene, and vinyl chloride were all detected in the water at Camp Lejeune. 

There’s no one reason for the contamination. Reportedly a dry cleaning service near the military base improperly disposed of dry cleaning solvents, which led to chemicals seeping into soil and groundwater near the Tarawa Terrace treatment plant, which serviced housing barracks. The Hadnot Point treatment plant served the base hospital and was contaminated by underground storage tanks, industrial spills, and waste disposal sites.

The U.S. military began to close the toxic water treatment plants in 1985, but it was too late for the servicemembers, their families and civilians who spent months or years drinking and bathing in contaminated water. Some of the chemicals found in the water are carcinogenic, which means they’re known to cause cancer. Research has found a link between Camp Lejeune exposure and an increased risk of serious diseases.

Camp Lejeune Health Conditions

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Camp Lejeune water exposure has been linked to the below conditions.

  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Aplastic Anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Bladder Cancer
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Liver Cancer
  • Adult Leukemia
  • Childhood Leukemia
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Cardiac Defect
  • Systemic Scierosis/Scleroderma
  • Other Diseases (under further investigation as well)

This isn’t an exhaustive list, and VOCs have been connected to other health problems. Benzene can cause excessive bleeding and decreased white blood cell count, while vinyl chloride exposure can increase brain cancer risk. Inhaling PCE can negatively affect the nervous system, and TCE exposure has also been associated with cervical cancer. 

Filing A Camp Lejeune Claim

You may wonder whether you’re eligible to file a Camp Lejeune Claim or Lawsuit if you lived or worked at Camp Lejeune. You might be entitled to legal compensation if you served at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1953 and December 1987. (The days do NOT have to be consecutive). Talking to an attorney is an essential next step to determining whether you can file a claim or lawsuit. A lawyer can answer your questions about whether you meet the qualifications to sue. An attorney will also help you collect the information you’ll need if you decide to move forward with a lawsuit, like medical records and documentation showing how your health has been affected by Camp Lejeune water contamination. Many veterans did not find out that toxic exposure made them sick until years (and even decades) after leaving the base. 

Your first step is to “present” a claim with the office of the Judge Advocate General (JAG) of the Navy’s Tort Claims Unit. Based on our conversations and understandings, we do not expect the government will make fair settlement offers to avoid lawsuits early on in the presentment process. After your claim is accepted or rejected by the JAG, your attorney can consider if a lawsuit will be needed on your behalf. Don’t put off talking to a lawyer about filing a water contamination lawsuit. Time is limited as The Camp Lejeune Justice Act includes a two-year statute of limitations, and there are procedural steps that must be taken initially to preserve your claim.  

The Childers, Schlueter & Smith Camp Lejeune Legal Team is here to help you seek justice. Schedule a meeting to discuss your potential Camp Lejeune claim today. You can call us at 1-800-641-0098 or email us at CampLejeune@cssfirm.com

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