Established in 1941, Camp Lejeune was a Marine Corps Base in North Carolina, hosting millions of service members and their families. Between 1953 and 1987, the camp witnessed among the deadliest water contamination cases in history, with nearly a million base residents exposed to toxic drinking water. As a result, most former residents experienced Camp Lejeune toxic water symptoms and developed many devastating medical conditions. Read on to learn more about Camp Lejeune water contamination, from the causes, effects, and possible compensation.

Causes of Camp Lejeune Water Contamination

Camp Lejeune water contamination emanated from harmful toxins in government-provided tap water. The harmful chemicals were 240-3400 times the permitted safety levels and included Tetrachloroethylene (PCE), Trichloroethylene (TCE), benzene, and Trans-1,2-dichloroethylene (DCE). Exposure to PCE, for example, has adverse health outcomes, from causing cancer to damaging kidneys and hurting the reproductive system.  

The pollutants came from industrial solvents and wastewater, buried fuel tanks, and chemical flows from an off-base dry-cleaning enterprise. Two treatment plants supplying Camp Lejeune –Hadnot Point Water System and Tarawa Terrace Water Treatment Plant had immensely polluted water. In the latter, for instance, an off-base dry cleaner used improper waste disposal, resulting in chemicals leaking into underground water.  

People Exposed to Camp Lejeune Water Contamination

Camp Lejeune is a giant Marine Corps Base hosting military persons, their families, and civilian workers. From 1953 to 1987, as many as one million persons living in the camp were affected by unsafe drinking water.

Injuries from Camp Lejeune Water Contamination

Individuals exposed to Camp Lejeune water contamination developed many serious, terminal, and even fatal health conditions. The main one was cancer, with many veterans and their families contracting breast, kidney, liver, bladder, and lung cancer.

Other disorders include aplastic anemia, multiple myeloma, renal toxicity, scleroderma, and Parkinson’s Disease. Exposure to the toxins also causes miscarriages and congenital disabilities. Notably, not every person exposed to the toxins develops health conditions. The effect varied from one person to another, depending on length, amount, type of exposure, and health status. Pregnant mothers and their unborn babies are at a greater risk of adverse health impacts.  

Benefits for Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Victims

Typically, service members and their families exposed to the tainted water at Camp Lejeune are eligible for two major benefits. First, they may qualify for VA disability compensation if they served at the camp or MCAS New River for at least 30 days and didn’t get a dishonorable discharge.

The good thing about this compensation is that it is presumptive, and specific disorders and symptoms are linked to the toxic water. Persons diagnosed with presumptive disorders like bladder cancer, multiple myeloma, kidney cancer, Parkinson’s disease, aplastic anemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and adult leukemia can file a disability claim and attain compensation. 

Second, Camp Lejeune veterans may also receive health care benefits by enrolling in VA health care. Those with Camp Lejeune-covered conditions, including certain cancers, myelodysplastic syndromes, and neurobehavioral effects don’t incur a copay to receive care.

Veteran family members –spouses, children, and other legal dependents may get reimbursement for medical costs of certain conditions, including various cancers, female infertility, renal toxicity, scleroderma, and miscarriage. The benefits may also apply to people living ‘in utero’ at the camp –the mother was pregnant with them.

Numerous marine veterans, family members, and civilians were exposed to harmful toxins in drinking water at Camp Lejeune. The water contamination was linked to various cancerous and non-cancerous health conditions with adverse health and financial consequences. Luckily, the VA offers compensation for veterans and family members affected by Camp Lejeune water contamination to alleviate the burden of medical costs and enhance quality of life.