The Camp Lejeune water contamination saga is one of the most tragic and damaging environmental disasters in U.S. history. It’s also a story about corporate greed and government negligence, with a few legal battles thrown in for good measure. This article will explain how the Camp Lejeune contamination happened, what happened next, and why it matters today:
The Camp Lejeune Contamination Crisis
The Camp Lejeune contamination crisis is a significant environmental and public health issue involving the contamination of drinking water.
Key points about the Camp Lejeune Contamination Crisis include:
- Timeline: The contamination at Camp Lejeune occurred over an extended period, with the earliest documented cases dating back to the 1950s.
- Contaminants: The primary contaminants found in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune included trichloroethylene (TCE), benzene, tetrachloroethylene (PCE), and vinyl chloride. These chemicals are known carcinogens and have been linked to various health problems. In one of the water treatment plants alone, TCE levels were 280 times higher than the maximum permissible limit.
- Discovery and investigation: The contamination issue gained widespread attention in the early 2000s when it was revealed that the U.S. government and the Marine Corps were aware of the contamination but did not take adequate measures to protect those living on the base. Investigations and studies were conducted to understand the extent of the problem and its impact on the affected individuals.
Legal Battles & Class-Action Lawsuits
There have been many legal battles and class-action lawsuits filed over the years. The government has been accused of not doing enough to protect the veterans from toxic chemicals.
According to TorHoerman Law, exposure to contaminants in the water at Camp Lejeune led to numerous health effects. Some of these health concerns include various forms of cancer, infertility, neurobehavioral problems, etc. Hence, veterans or their family members stationed at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 have filed lawsuits.
Through the lawsuits, the plaintiffs seek justice and compensation for their damages. The Camp Lejeune water contamination settlement amounts have not been decided yet. However, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated an amount for all the Camp Lejeune lawsuits.
The CBO has estimated the budget of the entire Honoring Our PACT Act to be around $667 billion in 10 years. Of these, the CBO estimates that the amount for Camp Lejeune lawsuits can be around $6.7 billion.
As lawsuits are still unresolved, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Department of Justice plan to offer payouts to those affected. Payments starting from $100,000 to $550,000 have been decided for specific illnesses. Claimants can opt for this system, instead of pursuing their lawsuits.
Latest Updates Around Camp Lejeune Lawsuits
There has been a lot of update in the Camp Lejeune lawsuits lately. For instance, more than 1,000 lawsuits have been filed until now. The Department of the Navy has decided to initiate an administrative settlement procedure. Through this procedure, the Navy aims to settle cases through compensation, without going into long litigations.
Deceptive tactics have also been found recently. Many scammers are contacting victims of Camp Lejeune water contamination to steal their personal information. They are also trying to ask the victims to pay filing fees for their lawsuits. Hence, the victims and plaintiffs need to be aware of such problems to prevent any mishappenings.
Previously, in September 2023, the Department of Justice and the Navy decided to cap the legal fees at 25% of the settlement amounts. Many lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. This means they take some percentage of the total settlement amounts the plaintiff receives. To ensure that victims keep the most of the settlement amount, the Navy capped this fee at only 25%.
Environmental Regulations & EPA Involvement
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a federal agency that regulates drinking water, pollution, waste disposal, and other environmental issues. The EPA was created in 1970 as part of President Richard Nixon’s administration.
Environmental Regulations and EPA Involvement:
- Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA): The Safe Drinking Water Act is a federal law that sets standards for drinking water quality in the United States. It authorizes the EPA to establish regulations to protect public health. It also requires the EPA to determine Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for various contaminants in drinking water. The SDWA is one of the primary regulatory frameworks governing drinking water safety, including on military bases like Camp Lejeune.
- EPA’s role: The EPA is the federal agency responsible for implementing and enforcing the SDWA. In the case of Camp Lejeune, the EPA has been involved in assessing and addressing the contamination issues. However, the responsibility for the safety and management of drinking water systems on military bases often falls on the Department of Defense (DoD).
- EPA involvement in Camp Lejeune: The EPA has worked in cooperation with the U.S. Marine Corps and other relevant agencies to address the water contamination issue at Camp Lejeune. They have conducted investigations and assessments to identify the extent of the contamination and its impact on public health. The EPA has also guided remediation and mitigation measures to ensure the safety of the water supply.
EPA has also shown an interest in banning all trichloroethylene (TCE) use. TCE is a contaminant found in the Camp Lejeune’s water supply. It increased the risk of exposed individuals getting Parkinson’s Disease by 70%. Hence, EPA has given a proposal to ban the use of TCE, which can take effect in a year or two.
Compensation & Health Benefits
Compensation for the victims of the contamination is available in the form of health care and disability benefits. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides medical care as well as compensation to veterans who were exposed to harmful chemicals at Camp Lejeune. This can be used to pay for doctor visits, prescriptions, and other healthcare costs that result from the exposure.
As of January 2023 end, the VA had received 102,265 disability claims related to exposure to carcinogenic compounds at Base Camp Lejeune. These claims have piled up since it began tracking such submissions almost 10 years ago. This shows that Camp Lejeune is one of the biggest class action lawsuits in US history.
The Camp Lejeune contamination crisis is an ongoing issue that has caused serious harm to many people. The military and government agencies have been slow to respond, but there is hope for those who were affected. If you or a loved one suffered from cancer due to exposure at Camp Lejeune, you should file a lawsuit now. Contact an experienced attorney or a law firm to get the process started.