Marines and veterans who were stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina between 1953 and 1987 were exposed to contaminated water that has been linked to serious illnesses and adverse health outcomes. Experts say that more than one million people lived and worked at Camp Lejeune during this time period, including active-duty Marines and their families.
Due to the nature of military service that sends our armed forces to bases all across the United States, many of those who were exposed to the contaminated water were originally from Illinois. Those who have since returned to their home state may now be left wondering whether they can file a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit while located in Illinois. The good news is that you do not have to return to Camp Lejeune to file a claim, and can instead do so from the comfort of your home in Illinois.
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What Was Found in Camp Lejeune’s Water?
Starting as early as 1953, Camp Lejeune’s drinking water was contaminated with a number of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Investigators found more than 70 highly toxic substances. The following VOCs were those found in the largest amount:
- Trichloroethylene (TCE) – This man-made chemical is primarily used to make refrigerants and in degreasing solvents used for metal equipment. TCE is a known carcinogen that may also cause headaches, dizziness, and confusion.
- Perchloroethylene (PCE) – Used as one of the primary dry-cleaning solvents in the United States, immediate exposure to PCE may cause irritation of the skin, throat, nose, and eyes. It is a known carcinogen that can also cause liver damage.
- Vinyl chloride (VC) – Found in a wide variety of products, including polyvinyl chloride pipes and wire coatings, VC is a carcinogenic substance that has been linked to a variety of cancers, including brain cancer and lymphoma.
- Benzene – Ranked among the top 20 chemicals in the U.S. by production volume, benzene’s application is wide and varied, as it is found in everything from lubricants, drugs, and pesticides to resins, plastics, and synthetic fibers. Benzene is known to damage the immune system and may cause bleeding disorders.
Marines and their family members were drinking, cooking, bathing, and showering with contaminated water for at least three decades. As a result, many of those exposed to the toxic substances via the water contamination have since developed severe illnesses and health conditions. Subsequent generations are not free from the harms of contaminated water either, as birth defects are a side effect of exposure to TCE, PCE, VC, and benzene.
Where Did the Contamination Come From?
Camp Lejeune was serviced by eight water treatment plants, two of which used contaminated well water. Both the Tarawa Terrace Treatment Plant and Hadnot Point Treatment Plant supplied water contaminated with highly toxic VOCs to the base’s:
- Enlisted-family housing
- Barracks of single Marines
- Medical facility
- Administrative offices
- Recreational spaces
One of the first sources of contamination can be traced to ABC One-Hour Cleaners, an off-base dry cleaner. Spills and improper disposal of PCE contaminated the groundwater that was ultimately used to service Camp Lejeune. Other causes of water contamination include:
- Industrial site leaks and spills
- Underground storage tank leaks
- Oil drums that were improperly stored or disposed of
When Was the Contamination Discovered?
Despite the presence of VOCs in Camp Lejeune’s water system since 1953, the contamination was not discovered until nearly three decades later in 1982. None of the affected wells were shut down until two years after that, in 1984. Other wells were shut down in the first half of 1985, and then the Tarawa Terrace Water Treatment Plant was later shut down permanently in 1987.
Health Conditions Linked to Camp Lejeune’s Contaminated Water
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has linked many serious health conditions to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. If you or your family became ill with any of the following diseases or cancers after living or working at Camp Lejeune, you may be entitled to financial compensation:
- Aplastic anemia
- Bladder cancer
- Brain cancer
- Breast cancer
- Cardiac defects
- Cervical cancer
- Choanal atresia
- End-stage renal disease
- Esophageal cancer
- Generalized hypersensitivity skin disorder
- Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Impaired immune system function
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Liver cirrhosis
- Low birth weight
- Lung cancer
- Miscarriage or fetal death
- Multiple myeloma
- Neural tube defects
- Neurobehavioral performance effects (including decreased blink reflect and visual perception defects)
- Neurological effects (including attention and memory problems)
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Oral cleft defects
- Ovarian cancer
- Parkinson disease
- Prostate cancer
- Rectal cancer
- Soft tissue cancer
- Vision defects
The above is far from a complete list of the health effects that may be caused by exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. If you or a loved one has been harmed or even died because of health issues related to exposure to the contaminated water, you may be able to secure financial compensation.
Who Was Affected by Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune?
Anyone who was stationed or lived at Camp Lejeune for a period of at least 30 days between 1953 and 1987 was exposed to carcinogenic VOCs via the water. If you were not stationed at Camp Lejeune but performed temporary duty travel (TDY) to the base for at least 30 days, you were also exposed for a sufficient period of time where you might expect health consequences to develop.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act
Awaiting passage from lawmakers, the Honoring Our PACT Act is expected to be passed in late June 2022. Included in this act is the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, which creates a path for those harmed by the water contamination at Camp Lejeune to hold the U.S. government accountable. In the past, Marines, veterans, and their family members have been blocked from taking legal action for this issue.
Will I Lose My VA Benefits if I File a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit?
Many veterans already receive disability benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA even provides benefits to those who have developed specific health conditions as a result of serving at Camp Lejeune during the water contamination crisis.
You do not have to give up your VA benefits in exchange for filing a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit. In fact, VA disability benefits are often insufficient for addressing the full scope of a serious illness, injury, or disability, so seeking additional compensation through other sources can be helpful.
Filing a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit in Illinois
Legal action taken against the U.S. government for the water contamination at Camp Lejeune will be treated similarly to how mass tort cases are handled. While you will file your individual lawsuit from Illinois, all claims will ultimately be consolidated in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of North Carolina.
To be able to take part, you will need to clearly demonstrate that you were not only at Camp Lejeune for a period of 30 or more days between 1953 and 1987, but that you were harmed as a result. Here are some documents we suggest bringing with you when you meet with one of our Illinois Camp Lejeune water contamination lawyers:
- Military service records
- Housing records, especially those that show you lived in enlisted-family housing or the barracks
- Travel records
- Medical records
- Medical bills
- VA disability documents
- Military discharge or separation papers (DD Form 214)
At Thomas Law Offices, we’ll use the information contained in the above documents to paint a clear picture of what happened to you. We’ll be your voice throughout this process, upholding your rights and fighting for the compensation you deserve.
Compensation Available in a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit
When you are harmed through no fault of your own, you may be owed financial compensation for your damages. In cases such as this, damages are considered the financial, physical, and emotional losses you have suffered as a result of your illness. In a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit, the compensation may address:
- Lost income
- Reduced earning capacity
- Medical bills
- Travel accommodations for specialists or doctor’s visits
- Loss of companionship or consortium
- Loss of enjoyment in life
It is important to look ahead when calculating compensatory damages. At Thomas Law Offices, we have the experience and know-how to look ahead to your future and ask, “How much will they need over their lifetime?” If you need long-term or even lifelong medical care for your condition, you could lose out on essential compensation if you only consider what you need in the present.
Thomas Law Offices Is a Strong Advocate for Illinois Veterans
Thomas Law Offices are proud advocates for Marines, veterans, and their families. If you or your loved one was harmed because of the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, you do not have to deal with the aftermath on your own. Our attorneys will be by your side for every step of the process, from our very first meeting all the way through the remainder of the case.
If you are ready to get started on your own Illinois Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit, contact our offices today to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.