You may be entitled to significant compensation if you served, lived, or worked at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act was signed into law by President Biden on August 10, 2022, allowing water contamination victims to get the compensation they deserve after decades of delayed justice. The new legislation allows military and civilian families to pursue claims for illnesses developed from toxic water exposure at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.
Camp Lejeune Lawsuit
For three decades, more than one million people who served, lived, or worked at U.S. Marine Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina were exposed to toxic chemicals in the water they used to drink, bathe, and cook food. Hundreds of thousands of military personnel, civilian workers, and their families developed severe illnesses or died from exposure to harmful contaminants in the base’s water supply.
The Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022, which includes the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, establishes a two-year window from August 10, 2022, to August 10, 2024, where military and civilian families can take legal action to pursue compensation for medical conditions linked to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. Before the PACT Act was signed into law, legal technicalities such as North Carolina’s “statute of repose,” prevented military and civilian families from pursuing a claim. The new law allows water contamination victims to pursue individual claims, rather than relying on a class-action lawsuit filed by someone else.
In order to file a Camp Lejeune lawsuit, you must meet the following criteria:
- You or your loved one served, lived, or worked on-base at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.
- You or your loved one was diagnosed with a disease, disability, or condition that was linked or likely caused by exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.
Timeline of Events Leading up to the Camp Lejeune Justice Act
October 21, 1980 – First warnings of water contamination at Camp Lejeune
After testing water samples from Camp Lejeune, the U.S. Army Environmental Hygiene Agency (USAEHA) found contamination in the base’s water supply. The USAEHA issued a handwritten report that said:
“Water is highly contaminated with low molecular weight halo-generated hydrocarbons.”
The USAEHA ran follow-up tests in January, February, and March 1981 that resulted in similar warnings about water contamination at Camp Lejeune. Each report found that unidentified chemicals in the water interfered with the accuracy of test results.
August 10, 1982 – Harmful chemicals found in Camp Lejeune well water
The U.S. Marine Corps contracted with a chemist from Grainger Laboratories to conduct environmental sampling at Camp Lejeune. The lab identified the chemicals that had been interfering with previous test results as “volatile organic compounds” (VOCs), which were not regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act at the time. VOCs are human-made chemicals used as industrial solvents. These harmful chemicals were found in drinking water supplied by two of the eight water treatment plants at Camp Lejeune.
Water from the Tarawa Terrace plant was contaminated by a type of VOC called PCE (perchloroethylene/tetrachloroethylene). The contamination was caused by waste disposal practices at ABC One-Hour Cleaners, an off-base dry-cleaning firm.
Well water from the Hadnot Point water treatment plant was contaminated by a type of VOC called TCE (trichloroethylene) as well as PCE, benzene, and vinyl chloride. Supply wells were contaminated by multiple sources, including the following:
- Leaking underground storage tanks that were installed in the 1940s and 1950s
- Industrial area spills
- Waste disposal sites
July 1984 – High levels of benzene found in Camp Lejeune well water
Testing of water samples taken from a well in Hadnot Point found a benzene level of 380-parts per billion. At the time, the maximum contaminant limit for benzene exposure set by the EPA was 5-parts per billion. The Marine Corps claimed that officials were not informed of the water contamination until November 1984, when they started shutting down wells at Camp Lejeune.
November 1984 to February 1985 – Camp Lejeune wells shut down due to water contamination
Between November 1984 and February 1985, Camp Lejeune officials shut down ten wells on the base after discovering that the water was contaminated with harmful chemicals including PCE, TCE, benzene, vinyl chloride, and others. The Marine Corps notified the state of North Carolina about the contamination in December 1984 but did not disclose the presence of benzene.
December 1988 – Public health assessment requested at Camp Lejeune
The Navy issued a letter to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to request a public health assessment at Camp Lejeune, which began in 1991.
October 4, 1989 – Camp Lejeune placed on CERCLA Act’s National Priorities List
The EPA placed Camp Lejeune and ABC One-Hour Cleaners on the National Priorities List under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability (CERCLA) Act.
In February 1991, the EPA, U.S. Navy, and North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality entered into a federal facility agreement for site cleanup activities. For each site that requires environmental remediation, these three agencies and the public must agree on the selected remedial alternative, which is outlined in a record of decision. Clean-up actions at the base are reviewed every five years. According to the EPA, the next five-year review will be completed in 2025.
1997 – Public health assessment of water contamination at Camp Lejeune identifies health hazards
The ATSDR released the final version of a public health assessment (PHA) of water contamination at Camp Lejeune. The PHA identified the following past health hazards from exposure to contaminated water in the Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point water systems:
- Lead exposure in the tap water of on-base buildings containing lead plumbing.
- Past exposure to VOCs in the drinking water systems at Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point until wells were taken out of service in 1985. There was also a short time frame when the water system at Holcomb Boulevard was contaminated. The PHA states that human exposure to VOCs “likely occurred for a longer period of time, perhaps as long as 30 years.”
- Past exposure to pesticides in the soil at a former day-care center.
After releasing the PHA, the ATSDR recommended a health study to evaluate the risk to children from maternal exposure to contaminated water during pregnancy.
The 1997 Camp Lejeune Public Health Assessment was withdrawn in 2009 after the House’s Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight determined that the ATSDR failed to adequately investigate the known issue of benzene contamination.
1998 – ATSDR completes study on pregnancy outcomes from exposure to water contamination at Camp Lejeune
The ATSDR completed its first study on adverse pregnancy outcomes of mothers exposed to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune. The study was published in 2001 in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Results were based on the analysis of births that took place between January 1, 1968, and December 31, 1985. The study found that infants whose mothers were exposed to contaminated water weighed an average of 24 grams less at birth than infants whose mothers lived in unexposed areas. In 2007, the ATSDR reported an error in the exposure assessment and noted an intention to re-evaluate the results.
January 28, 2008 – National Defense Authorization Act signed into law
President George W. Bush signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law in 2008. The new legislation required the Navy to work with ATSDR to conduct a health survey of individuals with possible exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.
In 2011, the ATSDR Health Survey of Former Marine Corps Personnel and Civilians was mailed to individuals who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune or Camp Pendleton during the time of potential exposure. The survey included questions about more than 20 different cancers and diseases.
After the surveys were sent out, the ATSDR held a public forum and began several studies about diseases and conditions developed after exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, including the following:
- 2013 Birth Defects and Childhood Cancers Study
- 2014 Mortality Study of Marine and Navy Personnel
- 2014 Mortality Study of Civilian Employees
- 2014 Adverse Birth Outcomes Study
- 2015 Male Breast Cancer Study
- 2016 Cancer Incidence Study
August 6, 2012 – Camp Lejeune Families Act signed into law
President Obama signed the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act into law in 2012. The bill was named after Janey Ensminger, the daughter of a Marine Corps veteran who died from leukemia at age nine.
The legislation provides free health care through the VA to veterans who served at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987. The law provides medical services for the following health conditions:
- Esophageal cancer
- Breast cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Renal toxicity
- Female infertility
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Lung cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Hepatic steatosis
- Neurobehavioral effects
January 14, 2017 – VA publishes final rule that provides disability compensation for Camp Lejeune veterans
The VA published a final rule that provides disability compensation for Camp Lejeune veterans who developed at least one of eight presumptive diseases associated with exposure to water contaminants. The rule went into effect on March 14, 2017. Qualifying diseases include the following:
- Adult leukemia
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
January 20, 2017 – ATSDR releases the final version of public health assessment on Camp Lejeune drinking water
The ATSDR released a final PHA on health effects due to exposure to VOCs found in Camp Lejeune drinking water. The PHA determined that military personnel, residents, and civilian workers were exposed to VOCs in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune from the 1950s to February 1985. According to the PHA, “exposures to these chemicals increase the risk for cancers, birth defects, and other health-related problems.”
March 3, 2022 – PACT Act passes in House
After the bipartisan legislation was introduced to Congress in January 2022, the House voted 256 to 174 to pass the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, which includes the Camp Lejeune Justice Act.
June 16, 2022 – PACT Act passes in Senate
After the PACT Act passed in the House, the Senate voted 84 to 14 to pass the bill. After this vote, a revised version of the bill was sent back to the House for re-approval. This process was expected to move quickly but was instead delayed for another month.
July 14, 2022 – PACT Act re-approved by House
The PACT Act was re-approved by the House after several weeks of debate over a “technical delay.” Members of the House raised a blue-slip objection that sent the bill back to the Senate with a request to remove a provision involving tax credits for VA doctors. There have only been three other times the House has blue-slipped a bill back to the Senate in the last 20 years.
August 2, 2022 – PACT Act sent to President Biden’s desk after passing in the Senate
The Senate finally passed the PACT Act with a vote of 86 to 11 after Congress received widespread criticism over the delay, sending the bill to President Biden’s desk to sign into law.
August 10, 2022 – PACT Act signed into law
The PACT Act was signed into law by President Biden on August 10, 2022. The new law allows military and civilian families to pursue compensation for certain diseases and conditions developed from exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.
Experienced Water Contamination Lawyers Help Families Get Justice and Compensation
Pritzker Hageman is one of the few law firms in the country with experience helping water contamination victims and their families get the justice and compensation they deserve. We have won hundreds of millions of dollars for our clients in water contamination lawsuits.
Our award-winning legal team has the experience and resources needed to investigate complex water contamination lawsuits against big companies, government agencies, and branches of the military. For a free consultation with our legal team, please call 1-888-377-8900 (toll-free), text 612-261-0856, or fill out the form below.