How the Water Got Contaminated at Camp Lejeune

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For more than three decades, toxic chemicals seeped into the water supply of a Marine Corps training base in North Carolina. Camp Lejeune was one of the Marine Corps largest and busiest training camps—and the water contamination is believed to be responsible for a large number of serious illnesses and the disproportionately high death rate among the military members, their families, and others who lived and worked at the camp between 1853 and 1987.

The Camp Lejeune toxic water contamination did not happen overnight and is considered the worst public drinking water contamination in the country’s history.


How Contaminates Leached Into the Water

For years, people complained that the water at Camp Lejeune tasted strange. This was most likely due to the contaminants that had made it into the water system from multiple sources.

The Marines dumped industrial wastewater into storm drains and buried potentially radioactive material in the ground (including the dead dogs used in military training) for years. A space that once served as a malaria control center that stored and mixed pesticides was also converted into a child care center.

In addition to the military activities at the base, an offsite dry cleaning business turned out to be a primary source of pollution.  For years ABC Dry Cleaning illegally dumped their wastewater filled with dangerous solvents that made their way into the Marine Corps water system.

The dry-cleaning pollutants included tetrachloroethylene (PCE), trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), vinyl chloride, and other contaminants. PCE and TCE were also used by the Marines on base to clean machinery.

Contaminate levels were up to 2,4000 times the levels considered safe for human consumption or use, and the ABC Dry Cleaning site eventually became a national Superfund cleanup priority.


Water Supplies at Camp Lejeune

There were eight water systems that supplied water to family housing (and other buildings) at Camp Lejeune for drinking, cooking, washing, and cleaning. Three of the water plants—Hadnot Point, Tarawa Terrace, and Holcomb Boulevard—were seriously contaminated.


Hadnot Point

Hadnot Point supplied water to Mainside barracks, and family housing known as Hospital Point, Midway Park, Paradise Point, and Berkeley Manor.

The main contaminant was TCE that came from leaking underground storage tanks and waste disposal sites. TCE levels were nearly 300 times current acceptable levels. Other contaminants included PCE (perchloroethylene or tetrachloroethylene), DCE (trans-1,2-dichloroethylene), vinyl chloride, and benzene.


Tarawa Terrace

Tarawa Terrace served family housing with the same name, and Knox trailer park.

PCE was the main contaminant and came from the ABC One House Cleaners site. PCE levels were forty-three times current acceptable levels.


Holcomb Boulevard

Holcomb Boulevard served family housing at Midway Park, Paradise Point, Berkeley Manor, Tarawa Terrace, and Watkins Village. The Holcomb Boulevard wells were not contaminated, but water from Hadnot Point was sent to these facilities when Holcomb was closed in January and February of 1985, and to supplement the water supply when demand was high, primarily during the summer months.


What to Do If You Got Sick

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers disability benefits to veterans and civilians who served at Camp Lejeune and were diagnosed with certain life-threatening diseases including adult leukemia; bladder, kidney, and liver cancers; aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes; multiple myeloma; Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; and Parkinson’s disease.

In addition, The Camp Lejeune Justice Act signed by President Biden in August 2022 allows people exposed during their time at the camp, and who meet certain conditions, to seek compensation.

If you believe that you are entitled to benefits and/or compensation, it’s essential to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney such as those at Strom Law.


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