Camp Lejeune Water Contamination

UPDATE: The two-year deadline to file a claim for civil compensation under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 is quickly approaching.   President Biden signed the PACT Act (S.3373- 117th Congress) into law on August 10, 2022. Therefore, victims who have developed cancer, suffered birth defects, or been diagnosed with another condition possibly related to the Lejeune water must file their claims by August 10, 2024.   To learn more about the strict time limitations to file a claim please contact us for a free and confidential consultation.


Camp Lejeune is a Marine Corps base and military training facility located in Onslow County in North Carolina.  It was first opened in 1942, and has served as a temporary or permanent home for thousands of military service members and their families. Thousands of contracted and civilian employees worked at the base.   Camp Lejeune was also used by various branches of the armed forces for military training.

Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit | Free Consultation

Camp Lejeune’s water supply was provided by its own public water system, providing potable water, or water that was presumed safe to drink and bathe in.  From 1953 to 1987 the public water supply at Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base in North Carolina was contaminated with toxic chemicals.  In the 1980s, two water-supply systems on the Base were found to be contaminated with the industrial solvents trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE). These water systems were supplied by the Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point water treatment plants, which served enlisted family housing, barracks for unmarried service personnel, base administrative offices, schools, and recreational areas.  The Hadnot Point water system also served the Base hospital and an industrial area and nearby housing.

It is believed that the contamination of the water came from multiple sources.  These chemicals, classified as “volatile organic compounds” (VOCs), are used for dry cleaning, and much of the water contamination was attributed to an off-base dry cleaner that existed before the Marine base was opened.   The same chemicals are also used to clean machinery and weapons.

PCE is a clear liquid chemical that is widely used in the drying cleaning industry to clean fabrics, and it was the greatest cause of the water contamination and the injuries and deaths that followed at Camp Lejeune.   PCE is absorbed following oral, inhalation, and dermal exposures. It travels through the bloodstream to the lungs. PCE targets the central nervous system, liver, and kidneys and accumulates in fat cells. Tetrachloroethylene also crosses the placenta and distributes to the fetus, which is why there were so many birth defects at Camp Lejeune.  The evidence is strong that PCE can cause a variety of maladies, including kidney cancer, liver and kidney injuries and bladder cancer, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Learn more about Camp Lejeune diseases that are recognized by the Veteran’s Administration.  For 346 months, the Tarawa Terrance water treatment and supply facility at Camp Lejeune was contaminated with dangerously high levels of PCE. The EPA’s maximum safe level for PCE in drinking water is 5 ug/L.  The peak level of TCE contamination in 1985 in the Camp Lejeune water supply was 215 ug/L.

Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit | Free Consultation

TCE is an industrial chemical that is used in the manufacturing of refrigerants and other hydrofluorocarbons and has been used as a solvent and also to kill insects as a fumigant. TCE was also commonly used as solvent and degreaser on metal military equipment.  The body absorbs trichloroethylene primarily from inhalation but also through oral and dermal exposure; and the bloodstream pushes this chemical to major organs that receive blood and deposit in fat cells. The body metabolizes TCE mostly in the liver and, secondarily, the kidneys and lungs.   The Hadnot Point water treatment facility servicing Camp Lejeune was found to be highly contaminated with TCE; the maximum safe level for TCE in potable water is 5 ppb. The Camp Lejeune water supply was contaminated with TCE as high as 1,400 ppb.    With newborn children, congenital heart defects are common from mothers who drank and bathed in the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune; which validates the many human and animal studies that strongly suggest a link between a mother’s exposure to TCE during pregnancy and congenital heart defects.

For 30 years, more than a million Marines and their families drank and bathed in contaminated water.  As a result of chronic exposure to toxic chemicals in Camp Lejeune’s water, thousands of Marines and their families have suffered serious illnesses and, in some cases, have died.  There is strong scientific evidence that chronic exposure to toxic chemicals in Camp Lejeune’s water has caused increased rates of cancer and has caused injuries to children in utero. In 2013, the CDC released the results of a study that confirmed that children who were born to mothers who lived on Camp Lejeune or drank the water supply had four times the rate of birth defects such as spina bifida.  The CDC also indicated that children who were exposed to the contaminated Camp Lejeune water during fetal gestation had an increased risk of developing childhood cancers like leukemia. These same children may also end up having a higher risk of adult cancer.

In the Federal Register Notice dated October 4, 1989, the EPA placed Camp Lejeune on the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (“CERCLA”) National Priorities List for Uncontrolled Hazardous Waste Sites Final Rule dated October 4, 1989.

Chemicals in Camp Lejeune Water-Linked to Cancer

The industrial chemicals that contaminated the Camp Lejeune water supply are known to be very toxic to the human body and have been linked to cancer, birth defects, and neurologic disorders. Scientific and medical evidence has shown that chronic exposure to the chemicals TCE and PCE can cause increased rates of certain types of cancer.  The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) completed several epidemiological studies to determine if Marines, Navy Personnel, and civilians residing and working on U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune were at increased risk for certain cancers, including cancers of the kidney, rectum, prostate, lung, leukemias and multiple myeloma.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes the dangers of Camp Lejeune Water Contamination and published its list of eligibility requirements for disability benefits from the VA, as well as types of cancer that have been scientifically linked to the consumption of harmful chemicals contaminating the water at Camp Lejeune:

  • Leukemia
  • Bladder cancer
  • Brain Cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Liver Cancer
  • Lung Cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Myelodysplastic syndrome
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Exposure to these chemicals has also been linked to other health conditions, including aplastic anemia (and other myelodysplastic syndromes) and neurologic disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.

Non-Cancer Camp Lejeune Injuries

The science and medical evidence continue to build linking other injuries besides cancer.  They include:

  • Infertility and Miscarriage
  • Birth Defects
  • Birth Injuries
  • Brain Injuries
  • Cardiac Defect
  • Fatty Liver Disease
  • Neurobehavioral Effects
  • Plastic anemia and other bone marrow conditions
  • Renal Toxicity
  • Scleroderma
  • Hepatic Steatosis
  • ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)
  • Parkinson’s Disease

There is a strict time limit to file claims.  The recently enacted Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) of 2022 imposes a strict 2-year deadline for Camp Lejeune victims (or their surviving relatives) to bring civil claims for compensation.  President Biden signed the PACT Act (S.3373- 117th Congress) into law on August 10, 2022. Therefore, victims who have developed cancer suffered birth defects, or been diagnosed with another condition possibly related to the Lejeune water will need to file their claims within this 2-year deadline.   The newly enacted CLJA allows tort claims to be brought on behalf of former Camp Lejeune residents or employees that are now deceased because of injuries related to the water contamination.

Before filing a lawsuit, CLJA requires all claimants to proceed first with a  six-month administrative claim:

(h)   Disposition By Federal Agency Required. – An individual may not bring an action under this section before complying with section 2675 of title 28, United States Code.

28 U.S.C. § 2675 is the section of the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) that states that before filing a tort suit against the government in civil court, the prospective plaintiff must first submit their claim to the “appropriate federal agency.” For Camp Lejeune water contamination claims, the Navy was the agency that had ultimate responsibility for the USMC base at Camp Lejeune; therefore, the appropriate federal agency to file an administrative claim would be the Department of the Navy.   Once a claim is submitted, the federal agency has a strict 6-month deadline to either accept or deny the claim. Claimants must wait until their claim is denied or the 6-month deadline expires before they can actually file their lawsuit in federal court.  Although the Navy will be the federal agency named in the claim, they will likely work with the Department of Justice (DOJ). North Carolina law controls all of these claims.  There is no cap on economic or noneconomic damages under North Carolina law, and consequently, there is no cap on a jury award.  The government has allocated $6.7 billion to pay Camp Lejeune settlement amounts and jury payouts.

To be eligible to file a lawsuit, Section 804(b) of the CLJA states you must be: “An individual, including a veteran, . . . or the legal representative of such an individual, who resided, worked, or was otherwise exposed (including in utero exposure) for not less than 30 days during the period beginning on August 1, 1953, and ending on December 31, 1987, to water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.” Accordingly, an injured party who can establish exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune for at least one month during the period of contamination (i.e., 1953 to 1987) is eligible to file a claim under the CLJA.  To prove exposure, copies of official documents stating that you lived or worked at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 should be sufficient. Former Marines who were stationed at Camp Lejeune should request their official military service records (known as DD214). Civilians who worked on base can request copies of their Social Security Work History.

If you or a loved one served in the armed forces, lived at or near the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base in North Carolina for at least 30 days between 1953 and 1987, and have been diagnosed with leukemia, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, multiple myeloma, liver cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, or any other of the health conditions listed above, you may be entitled to compensation. Please reach out to our experienced attorneys for a free consultation. We can help.