After Delays in Congress, Camp Lejeune Toxic Drinking Water Claims Now Being Accepted
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act was finally passed by the U.S. Senate as part of the SFC Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act in August 2022, and PACT was signed into law by President Biden on August 10, 2022. This starts the clock running on a two-year period from that date for filing claims under the Act related to exposure to toxic chemicals in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune. While you may have seen the flood of Camp Lejeune claims advertising on television in recent months, you may also have some questions about the situation and claims process that haven’t been answered by those ads.
Camp Lejeune and Its Water Problems
Camp Lejeune is a major base and training facility for the U.S. Marine Corps located near Jacksonville, North Carolina. Begun shortly before the U.S. entry into World War II, it now covers more than 150,000 acres and is the home base for several Marine units, including the 2nd Marine Division and the USMC School of Infantry, a secondary training school for Marines who have graduated from boot camp. There are currently more than 100,000 Marines, their family members, and civilian workers on the base.
Unknown to those living and working on the base in the past, many of them were drinking and bathing in seriously contaminated water being drawn from some of the base’s water wells. Testing that began in about 1980 has shown high levels of toxins in the water, including substances such as:
- Trihalomethanes — includes several substances used as refrigerants (e.g., Freon) and solvents, many are carcinogenic.
- Halogenated hydrocarbons.
- Chlorinated hydrocarbons.
- Vinyl chloride — a volatile, organic chemical linked to diseases such as liver cancer.
- Perchloroethylene/Tetrachloroethylene — a chlorinated, organic solvent used as a degreaser for cleaning automotive and mechanical parts identified as a “probable carcinogen” and linked to problems like liver and kidney cancers and Parkinson’s disease.
- Trichloroethylene — also used as an industrial degreaser and cleaning solvent, as well as in older forms of dry cleaning fluids, listed as a “likely carcinogen.”
Likely sources for the groundwater contamination that found its way into the base’s drinking water supplies were leaky underground fuel tanks and the use of solvents for cleaning military equipment (common sources of groundwater contamination on and near many current and former military bases). The contaminated wells were eventually shut down in the mid-1980s. The new Camp Lejeune Justice Act covers exposures between 1953 and 1987.
Who May File Camp Lejeune Claims Under the New Act?
After several years of initially denying any water contamination problems, then denying that the contamination had exposed anyone to serious health issues, Marine and government officials finally began to publicly recognize the problem. A federal rule was proposed in 2016 and later adopted to recognize a “presumptive service connection” for several specific diseases related to being based at Camp Lejeune. The health and disability benefits under this rule are administered through the Veterans Administration (VA) and are available for any veteran, reservist, or national guard member who was stationed for 30 days or more at Camp Lejeune from 1953 to 1987. Fortunately, these benefits are “presumed to be connected” to service at the base — it is not necessary to further prove causation between exposure and disease. Unfortunately, however, this rule only covers eight specific conditions, and it is only available to former service members — not to their family members who lived on base or to civilian workers at Camp Lejeune.
The new Camp Lejeune Justice Act does not automatically provide benefits, but it does open the claims process to not only service members, but also to their families and to civilian workers who were on base during the same 1953 to 1987 time period. In essence, it limits government immunity and allows people to bring claims and lawsuits for diseases resulting from toxic exposure as people would similarly be able to do against private individuals or corporations who may have exposed them to toxic groundwater contamination.
Seeking Legal Advice for Camp Lejeune Claims
As we mentioned above, there is a hard, two-year time limit for bringing claims under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. There are also very specific rules as to how the claims must be filed, the Navy claims unit to whom they must be submitted, and the federal district court where subsequent lawsuits must be presented. The process and rules for claims under the Act are different both from other types of federal government claims and from other types of litigation against the government. Unlike claims by veterans to the VA under the presumptive service connection rule, these claims and lawsuits actually require showing a causative connection between exposure to contaminated water at Lejeune and the subsequent disease or health problem — similar to the types of proof required in ordinary toxic exposure litigation. Someone who may be considering filing a claim under the Act could benefit considerably by seeking advice from an experienced personal injury attorney about whether and how to pursue this type of claim.
View this video from the Associated Press about one Marine’s experience with Camp Lejeune water and later development of cancer:
Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawyer
Hello, my name is Ed Smith, and I’m a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawyer. The United States must do right by its veterans, reservists, and national guard members, as well as their family members and the civilian workers who support them. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act provides an opportunity for all of these people to seek compensation for serious health problems and diseases they may suffer due to exposure to toxic drinking water while stationed, working, and living at Camp Lejeune. If you or member of your family has developed a serious illness following exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, please contact us at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice. You can also reach us through our online contact form.
Image by Dedoceo Habi from Pixabay
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