Camp Lejeune, a military base in North Carolina, has long stood as a symbol of strength for the United States Marine Corps. However, beneath its storied history lies a hidden threat that has affected those trained there and their families. This threat is the contamination of Camp Lejeune’s water supply.
It is a silent and insidious danger that has unfolded over several decades. Many military personnel and their family members have faced numerous health conditions because of exposure to contaminated water.
Camp Lejeune’s water contamination story dates back to the mid-20th century when the base was established. Initially, the water supply was sourced from on-base wells that drew water from the underlying aquifer. It was a seemingly reliable and sufficient source, meeting the needs of the growing military community.
However, as the base expanded and more facilities were built, the water demand increased. To cope with this demand, Camp Lejeune began to rely on a complex network of wells. This inadvertently led to tapping into water sources that harbored hidden dangers.
Unbeknownst to the military personnel and their families, the water they drank and used for daily activities contained toxic contaminants. These contaminants would have severe consequences for their health.
For instance, an article from chej.org states that TCE and PCE levels were high in the water supplied at the camp. TCE levels were 280x, and PCE levels were 43x higher than the safe limit in one of the water treatment plants.
According to TorHoerman Law, investigations into Camp Lejeune’s water contamination revealed the presence of three primary contaminants. These three contaminants were trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), and benzene.
In fact, TCE is a common water contamination hazard. A CNN news article shows it is found in around 4.5% and 18% of the tested drinking water supply sources. These chemicals, commonly used in industrial processes, are known carcinogens and pose significant health risks even at low levels of exposure.
Trichloroethylene, a solvent used in cleaning and degreasing, was discovered in alarming concentrations in some of the base’s water wells. Perchloroethylene, commonly used in dry cleaning operations, and benzene, a component of gasoline, were also identified.
The combination of these contaminants in the water supply created a toxic cocktail. Over time, this would devastate the health of those living on and around Camp Lejeune.
As the years passed, a disturbing pattern emerged. Former residents of Camp Lejeune began reporting a disproportionately high incidence of health issues, including cancers, neurological disorders, and reproductive problems.
Alarmed by these reports, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry launched investigations. The investigations aimed to assess the extent of the health crisis linked to the contaminated water.
The findings were chilling. Studies confirmed a statistically significant increase in certain types of cancers. Those exposed to contaminated water were at a high risk of developing cancers such as leukemia and breast cancer.
For instance, a study published in the JAMA Network Journal highlights the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Marines and sailors who drank and bathed in the water of the camp had a 70% higher risk of Parkinson’s.
Neurological disorders, developmental delays in children, and reproductive issues were also prevalent within the affected community. The realization that the very institution meant to protect its members had inadvertently caused harm sent shockwaves through the military.
The revelation of Camp Lejeune’s water contamination sparked a legal and bureaucratic battle for accountability and justice. Families affected by the health crisis filed lawsuits against the U.S. government and the responsible parties. Through the Camp Lejeune toxic water lawsuit, victims demanded compensation for the pain and suffering endured.
The military, facing allegations of negligence and failing to adequately address the issue, launched internal investigations. The legal battle would stretch on for years, with veterans and their families facing significant hurdles in their pursuit of justice.
Numerous individuals who lived or served at Camp Lejeune between the 1950s and 1980s have reported various health issues. If you have been exposed to contaminated water and experienced health problems, you, too, can file a lawsuit.
However, you must have the evidence to prove the connection between your health problem and exposure to Camp Lejeune water contamination. For instance, you can prove your stay at Camp Lejeune between the dates. Similarly, you can collect medical receipts and ask your doctor to testify.
In 2022, the U.S. Congress passed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act for those who suffered from the water contamination incident at the camp. This act aimed to provide medical care and disability benefits to veterans and their families affected by the water contamination. The act was a significant step forward in recognizing the government’s responsibility for the health crisis at Camp Lejeune.
However, some critics argue that the response was slow and insufficient, considering the issue’s magnitude. Many families continue to grapple with the emotional, physical, and financial burdens imposed by the health issues.
In fact, despite the passing of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, justice is long from being served. According to a news article from ny1.com, claims of around 90,000 or more have not been settled after the law was passed.
The Camp Lejeune water contamination is a stark reminder of the potential hazards that can lurk beneath the surface. It can be hidden in the very resources you depend on for survival. It underscores the importance of rigorous environmental monitoring and proactive measures to prevent and address contamination.
The military, an institution dedicated to protecting the nation, must learn from the mistakes made at Camp Lejeune. Improved infrastructure, regular testing, and transparent communication are essential to ensuring the safety of military installations.
To conclude, a cautionary tale of environmental negligence lies beneath the surface of Camp Lejeune’s proud military legacy. The hidden hazards of Camp Lejeune’s water supply have left a lasting imprint on the health of those who called the base home. This has prompted a reevaluation of environmental practices within the military and beyond.