More than 100 injury lawsuits have been filed in a North Carolina federal court by U.S. veterans and their family members who claim they suffered injuries from contaminated water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
The Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuits allege that the U.S. government was negligent in exposing them to toxic chemicals that seeped into the groundwater and drinking water at the base from 1953 to 1987. The plaintiffs say they developed various health problems, such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, kidney damage, and other illnesses, due to contaminated water exposure.
The federal contamination lawsuits were filed after a new law, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, took effect in August 2022, opening a two-year window for Camp Lejeune claims to be filed administratively with the Navy’s Tort Claims Unit. The law allows water contamination victims to file a federal lawsuit six months after filing their administrative claim, regardless of whether they have received a response from the Navy.
The law permitting Camp Lejeune water contamination injury lawsuits was enacted after years of legal battles and advocacy by veterans and their supporters, who argued that the government had denied their claims based on sovereign immunity and statute of limitations. The law waived those defenses and recognized the scientific and medical evidence linking the Camp Lejeune water contamination to certain diseases, particularly cancer, pregnancy issues, and birth defects.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), benzene and vinyl chloride. The agency said that these chemicals likely increased the risk of cancer and other health problems for residents and visitors of the base.
The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that as many as one million people may have been exposed to water contamination at Camp Lejeune. The VA has established a presumptive service connection for veterans, reservists, and National Guard members who served at Camp Lejeune from August 1, 1953, to December 31, 1987, and later developed one of eight diseases, such as adult leukemia, bladder cancer, and liver cancer. The VA also provides health care benefits to eligible veterans and their family members affected by Camp Lejeune water contamination.
The Navy said it is committed to resolving all claims related to the Camp Lejeune water contamination as fairly, thoroughly, and expeditiously as possible. The Navy has received about 20,000 administrative claims related to Camp Lejeune’s water contamination, but only a few have been adjudicated.
Attorneys for Camp Lejeune victims said they expect more lawsuits to be filed in the coming months as more people become aware of their rights and the deadline approaches. They said they hope the lawsuits will bring justice and compensation to the victims of the water contamination, as well as accountability and transparency from the government.