Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Litigation Status: What You Need to Know

Camp Lejeune, a U.S. Marine Corps base in North Carolina, is the site of one of the largest and longest-lasting cases of water contamination in U.S. history. Between 1953 and 1987, an estimated 1 million people were exposed to drinking water contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are linked to many types of cancer and other health problems. The source of the contamination was industrial waste, fuel leaks, and a local dry cleaner that dumped chemicals into the groundwater.

The victims of the contamination include military personnel, civilian employees, and their families who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune during that period. Many of them have developed serious illnesses or died as a result of their exposure. Many victims and their families have filed lawsuits against the U.S. government, seeking compensation and justice for their suffering.

Status of Camp Lejeune Litigation

As of July 22, 2023, more than 1,100 lawsuits had been filed in the Eastern District of North Carolina by Camp Lejeune victims or their survivors. These lawsuits allege that the U.S. government was negligent in failing to prevent, detect, and remediate the contamination, and that it concealed or downplayed the health risks to the public.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has not yet responded to over 660 of these lawsuits. The DOJ argued that the cases should be dismissed under the Feres doctrine, which bars service members from suing the government for injuries incurred in the line of duty. However, plaintiffs have challenged this argument, claiming that their injuries were not related to their military service, but to their exposure to contaminated water.

On July 22, 2023, four federal judges overseeing the Camp Lejeune litigation issued an order appointing a panel of seven lawyers to coordinate and manage the progress of the cases. The panel will be responsible for negotiating potential settlements, identifying bellwether cases (representative cases that can set a precedent for others), and handling document production.

A small group of law firms (including Herd Law Firm) have been entrusted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) to pursue these claims.

To date, no Camp Lejeune case has reached a settlement. This includes not only the lawsuits filed in federal court, but also the more than 70,000 administrative claims filed with the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General (JAG). These claims are separate from the lawsuits, and are subject to a different process and standard of proof.

VOCs and Health Effects at Camp Lejeune

The main agency responsible for investigating the contaminants and their health effects at Camp Lejeune is the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The ATSDR has conducted several thorough studies and reviews on the issue since 1991.

According to the ATSDR, four VOCs were detected in Camp Lejeune’s drinking water: trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), vinyl chloride, and benzene. These chemicals are commonly used in industrial processes and household products, such as paint, refrigerants, and fuels. These can evaporate easily into the air or dissolve into water, making them potential sources of environmental pollution.

The ATSDR has found that exposure to these VOCs “likely increased the risks of cancers” in those who drank or bathed in Camp Lejeune’s water.

The agency has also identified “sufficient evidence for causation” between specific VOCs and certain types of cancer and other health problems. These include, but are not limited to:

  • TCE: Kidney cancer, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and cardiac defects
  • PCE: Bladder cancer
  • Vinyl chloride: Liver cancer
  • Benzene: Leukemia, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

The ATSDR also noted that there are causal links between VOC exposure and many other conditions, such as multiple myeloma, end-stage renal disease, Parkinson’s disease, and scleroderma. However, these links are not as firmly established by current research.

The ATSDR has acknowledged that most of the research on VOC exposure and health effects is based on animal studies or occupational studies, and a lack of studies on long-term exposure to VOCs in drinking water. Therefore, the agency is continuing to conduct research on Camp Lejeune residents and workers to better understand the health impacts of the contamination.

Camp Lejeune water contamination is a tragic and ongoing issue that has affected thousands of people who lived or worked at the base between 1953 and 1987. The victims have suffered from various types of cancer and other health problems resulting from exposure to VOCs in the drinking water. Many have filed lawsuits and administrative claims against the U.S. government, seeking justice, accountability, and compensation for their injuries.

The Camp Lejeune litigation is still in its early stages, with no settlements reached so far. The cases are being coordinated by a panel of seven lawyers who will negotiate with the DOJ, select bellwether cases, and manage document production. The ATSDR is still conducting research on the health effects of the VOCs and updating its findings.

If you or a loved one were exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, you may be eligible for compensation.. You may also be entitled to legal compensation, as well as health care benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Camp Lejeune water contamination is a serious and urgent matter that deserves attention and action. At the Herd Law Firm, PLLC, we support every man, woman, and child exposed to contaminants at Camp Lejeune, and believe you deserve quality, attentive legal representation. We are proud to be able to aid our veterans and their families in seeking restitution for their injuries, and have been entrusted by the VFW to handle these claims on behalf of Veterans and their families.


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