Camp Lejeune is a Marine Corps base in Jacksonville, North Carolina. For more than 30 years, from about 1953 to 1987, the water supply at Camp Lejeune was contaminated with harmful chemicals that have the potential to cause serious health conditions, including certain types of cancer and other diseases.
During the time that the water was contaminated, around 750,000 people who lived and worked at Camp Lejeune — including active-duty service members, their families, and civilian employees — regularly bathed in and ingested the hazardous substances contained in the water.
A comprehensive testing initiative was implemented in the early to mid-1980s, which resulted in contaminated water sources being shut down. Since 1987, there have been no significant reports of water contamination at Camp Lejeune, but unfortunately, the water testing came far too late for service members and others who were regularly exposed to hazardous chemicals on the base in the 30+ years prior.
Contaminated Water at Camp Lejeune
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) estimates that hazardous chemicals began appearing in the water system at the Hadnot Point water treatment facility on the base around 1953. The ATSDR further estimates that chemical contamination began to occur at the Tarawa Terrace water treatment plant beginning in 1957.
Contaminated wells at these two plants were a primary source of drinking water contamination at Camp Lejeune. PCE, or tetrachloroethylene, was the main chemical compound found at the Tarawa Terrace water treatment facility. The source of the contamination was found to be an off-base dry cleaner. PCE is often used for dry cleaning purposes. The company had improperly disposed of its chemical waste, which allowed it to seep into the groundwater.
The main chemical found at the Hadnot Point treatment facility was TCE, or trichloroethylene. The ATSDR determined that there were numerous potential sources for the TCE found at Hadnot Point. Resources likely included leaking underground tanks, hazardous waste disposal areas, and industrial spillage. Other chemicals, including PCE, DCE (dichloroethylene), vinyl chloride, and benzene, were also found at Hadnot Point.
Water wells near possibly contaminated sites were tested between 1982 and 1984. In early 1985, ten wells were retired on the same day after it was determined that they were affected by chemicals like PCE and TCE.
Is It Safe to Drink Water at Camp Lejeune Today?
The drinking water at Camp Lejeune has been safe to consume since 1987. And the most significantly contaminated wells are no longer in use today.
According to the United States Marine Corps, the water at Camp Lejeune is regularly inspected for volatile organic compounds, or VOCs (TCE and PCE are both VOCs). In fact, tests at Camp Lejeune are conducted more frequently than is typically required. The camp’s water supply meets the rigorous state and federal standards that were created to ensure safe drinking water. Consumer Confidence Reports are distributed to residents of Camp Lejeune once a year to reaffirm the safety of the drinking water on the base.
Steps Camp Lejeune Is Taking to Prevent Water Contamination Today
Efforts are ongoing to ensure that the water quality at Camp Lejeune remains safe. These efforts include water quality testing, abiding by up-to-date waste management rules and guidelines, and eliminating toxins from past hazardous waste areas. You can view the camp’s recent water quality reports here.
Camp Lejeune follows the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1976 to prevent future groundwater contamination. One of the primary goals of the RCRA is to safeguard human health and protect the local environment from hazards associated with waste disposal.
Camp Lejeune also abides by CERCLA, or the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980. This act aims to mitigate the impact of hazardous chemicals when they are released into the environment. Camp Lejeune maintains an active CERCLA-compliant program. The program’s mission is to deal with former toxic waste sites and tackle groundwater contamination before it impacts the water supply.
If you were exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune for a period of at least 30 days from August 1, 1953, to December 31, 1987, and were later diagnosed with a serious health issue, you might be entitled to file a claim and recover compensation once the Camp Lejeune Justice Act is signed into law. The attorneys at TruLaw are prepared to begin the legal process as soon as the new law is approved.