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Veterans Law

Decades of Hidden Hazards: The History of Camp Lejeune’s Water Contamination

May 12, 2017
Decades of Hidden Hazards: The History of Camp Lejeune’s Water Contamination

Water contamination at Camp Lejeune existed for decades and exposed thousands of people to serious health risks. From 1953 to 1987, everyone living or working at U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina was exposed to a variety of toxins in the water. Service members living on base at the time, along with their families, were unknowingly drinking contaminated water, as well as cooking with it, bathing in it, and washing their clothes in it. 

Beginning in the early 1950’s, contamination began on the base as at least two of the water treatment systems became contaminated—and the toxins included degreasing components, dry-cleaning chemicals, benzene and many other toxins classified as volatile organic compounds. Reports in the 80s indicated there was serious contamination, and by that point service members had become ill with a list of health problems thought to be associated with the water.

Reports and investigations continued through the 80s with little cooperation from the Marine Corp until, upon government investigation, the affected water treatment systems were shut down in 1987. In the meantime, those living at the base became ill with very serious diseases now presumed to be connected to military service. 

VA Compensation for Camp Lejeune Contaminant Exposure

The VA has established a list of presumptive conditions for service members that served at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days, consecutive or nonconsecutive, during the time period when the water supply was contaminated. The presumptive diseases are:

Adult leukemia

Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes

Bladder cancer

Kidney cancer

Liver cancer

Multiple myeloma

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Parkinson’s disease

To qualify for VA benefits, you will need to show proof that you served at Camp Lejeune for 30 days during this time period, and provide medical evidence that you have one of these diseases. You do not need to prove that your illness is connected to your military service.

Service members who served at Camp Lejeune and are experiencing other health conditions can still apply for VA compensation, but must prove that their disabilities are connected to their military service. 

If you were exposed to the water contaminants at Camp Lejeune and are filing a claim or are suffering from one or more of the associated health conditions, you can get help in filing or appealing your claim. Our veterans attorneys will help you through every step of the process. Contact us to receive your no-cost consultation with a veterans advocate.