In 1941, Camp Lejeune was built at the mouth of the New River in North Carolina, at a cost of over $14 million. Home of “Expeditionary Forces in Readiness,” Camp Lejeune has been the home base for many combat units, including the II Marine Expeditionary Force, the 2nd Marine Division, and the 2nd Marine Logistics Group. Located near water and on 240 acres of land, it was considered excellent training ground for amphibious warfare.

canteenHowever, many soldiers and their families who lived at Camp Lejeune from 1953 through 1987 were exposed to contaminated water—water that they drank and bathed in for extended periods of time. Dangerous chemicals polluted the water at high concentration levels, as much as 3,400 times the acceptable safety limits. In the years after leaving Camp Lejeune, many veterans and their family members developed serious medical conditions, including different types of cancer, believed to be caused by the contaminated water. It’s believed that the contamination came from three sources: leaking underground fuel storage tanks, a dry-cleaning company near the base, and chemicals used to clean the military equipment on base.

Victims allege that the Marine Corps knew about the contamination but didn't try to resolve the problem, nor did it communicate the health risks to those living on the base. Despite 2009 investigations by the government into the allegations about the contaminated water and cover-up, and President Obama signing into law the Janey Ensminger Act to provide medical care for those affected by the polluted water, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has only just proposed regulations that would establish presumptive service connections for eight medical conditions caused by the contaminated water. However, these regulations haven't been finalized. Consequently, if you need assistance filing a claim for an illness you believe was caused by your assignment at Camp Lejeune, hiring a disability attorney can help.

Important Facts About Camp Lejeune and Water Contamination

Advocates for veterans and some government agencies have pushed for the VA to approve service-connected illnesses related to this exposure. Here are some important facts about Camp Lejeune, as well as some recent news about what’s being done to help victims:

  1. Approximately 245,700 people have registered with the Marine Corps as former residents of Camp Lejeune.
  2. In 2012, President Obama signed a bill into law establishing medical coverage for approximately 750,000 people who were exposed to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. The “Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012,” also known as the Janey Ensminger Act, was initiated by Jerry Ensminger, whose daughter was exposed to the contaminated water and died of leukemia. The VA listed 15 diseases it will treat a Marine for, including esophagus, breast, kidney, bladder, and lung cancer, leukemia, multiple myeloma and scleroderma, female infertility, neuro-behavioral problems, and miscarriage.
  3. In 2013, the Toxic Substances & Disease Registry of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded that mothers who drank the water at Camp Lejeune were four times more likely to give birth to children with birth defects, including spina bifida. Additionally, these babies had an elevated risk of suffering childhood cancers.
  4. Two water treatment plants that supplied water to Camp Lejeune were found to be contaminated with “volatile organize compounds.” Perchloroethylene (PCE) contaminated the Tarawa Terrace Treatment Plan—the source believed to be a dry-cleaning company nearby. Trichloroethylene (TCE) contaminated the Hadnot Point Treatment Plant. The origin of contamination was from multiple sources: underground storage tanks that were leaking; industrial area spills; and waste disposal sites.
  5. In September 2012, over 10 pounds of elemental mercury were discovered at the Hadnot Point Water Treatment Plant. The water plant was taken offline for many weeks to clean up and eliminate the mercury. A possible source of the contamination may have been water pressure meters that had contained the mercury and were removed from the plant in the 1980s. Common side effects of mercury exposure include:
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Problems with vision
  • Sore throat and coughing
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • A metallic taste in the mouth

It’s possible for pregnant women and new mothers to pass mercury on to their children. Additionally, young children are at a higher risk for exposure to mercury vapors because they have smaller lungs than adults and breathe faster.

  1. Some people survived the exposure to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune, but others weren’t as lucky. Many residents of Camp Lejeune became seriously ill and suffered life-altering conditions. You may be eligible for benefits if you experienced any of the following:
  • Kidney cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Liver disease
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

We Can Help

If you’re a veteran, a member of the Reserves, or a member of the National Guard assigned to Camp Lejeune from August 1, 1953 through December 31, 1987, and you believe your medical condition was caused by the contaminated water there, don’t wait for VA compensation changes to be finalized. Contact Cuddigan Law at 402-933-5405. We’ll schedule an appointment to discuss your eligibility for benefits.


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska