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Camp Lejeune NC Water Contamination: History And Timeline

US Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, was potentially exposed to industrial solvents, benzene, and other chemicals from the 1950s to 1980s.

Camp Lejeune NC Water Contamination: Overview

A US Marine Corps base was established in 1942 at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. In 1982, Water provided by two of the base's eight water treatment plants contained specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

PCE (perchloroethylene or tetrachloroethylene) contaminated the water used at Tarawa Terrace. An off-base dry cleaning firm, ABC One-Hour Cleaners, is responsible for the Camp Lejeune drinking water contamination. Reconstructing historical contaminant concentrations was done through data analysis and modeling by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Based on these approaches, ATSDR estimated that PCE concentrations in drinking water from the Tarawa Terrace water treatment plant exceeded EPA maximum contamination levels of 5 ppb for 346 months between November 1957 and February 1987. Wells with the highest levels of Camp Lejeune contamination water were shut down in February 1985.

TCE (trichloroethylene) was the primary contaminant of the water at the Hadnot Point water treatment plant. Aside from that, PCE, benzene, t-1,2-dichloroethylene, and vinyl chloride degradation products were detected in the drinking water as well. The supply wells were contaminated by leaky underground storage tanks, spills from industrial areas, and waste dumping. According to ATSDR modeling, at least one VOC exceeded the EPA's maximum contaminant level between August 1953 and January 1985.

That said, the drinking water at Camp Lejeune has been contaminated since the 1950s, leading to most of those wells getting closed down in 1985. A study conducted by ATSDR in the late 1980s assessed the health risks associated with hazardous substances in the drinking water, so it may have affected one million military and civilian staff members and their families.

Camp Lejeune NC Water Contamination: Timeline

Camp Lejeune NC water contamination timeline and important events can be found below:

1942: A Marine Corps base is established in North Carolina, known as Camp Lejeune, by the US Marine Corps.

1952: Tarawa Terrace Water Treatment Plant goes into operation.

1953: Hadnot Point Water System started being contaminated.

1957: It was discovered that water distributed through Tarawa Terrace Water System was becoming increasingly contaminated.

1972: Operation of the Holcomb Boulevard Water System began.

1980-1982: Contamination was discovered during water testing at Camp Lejeune.

1982-1984: At Camp Lejeune, the Marines and Navy attempted to determine the extent of the contamination.

1985-1987: The federal government shut down several contaminated water plants due to Camp Lejeune, NC water contamination.

1987-1989: As part of the Safe Drinking Water Act, an additional standard for volatile organic compounds was established.

1999: Health risks associated with Camp Lejeune were being communicated to former camp residents by the Marine Corps.

2009: The first lawsuit was filed over Camp Lejeune's past water contamination by the wife of a former marine.

2012: Laws related to Camp Lejeune families were signed by President Obama in 2012.

2017: Several veterans began claiming VA benefits after exposure to contaminated water.

2021: Legislators refocused their attention on allowing service members to file claims for contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.

2022: President Biden signed into law the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, which passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Frequently Asked Questions

As a result of their stay at Camp Lejeune, nearly every Veteran concerned with securing compensation for their injuries incurred due to their stay there has the following questions on their minds:

Can I receive VA disability benefits?

You may have had contact with contaminants in the drinking water on MCAS New River or Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Medical and scientific evidence has shown that exposure to these contaminants during military service is associated with developing certain diseases later. 

You may qualify for benefits if you met these two conditions:

  • You served at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River for a minimum of 30 cumulative days — from August 1953 to December 1987
  • You did not receive a dishonorable discharge during your separation from the military

There must also be a diagnosis of one or more of the following presumptive conditions:

  • Adult leukemia
  • Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Bladder cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • Parkinson's disease

Who's covered under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022?

Under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, the following categories of service members are covered:

  • Veterans
  • Reservists
  • Guardsmen
  • Civilians

What kind of benefits can veterans get under this Act?

Veterans are eligible to receive the following benefits under this Act:

  • Health care
  • Compensation 

How do I get these benefits?

If you are seeking disability compensation, you will need to file a claim and provide the following evidence (supporting documents):

  • Proof of service at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River between August 1953 and December 1987 when on active duty with the National Guard or Reserves
  • Medical records indicating that you suffer from one or more of the eight illnesses listed on the presumptive conditions list (see above)

A claim can be filed in any of the following ways:

  • File an online claim at VA.gov
  • Visit accredited representatives, like Veterans Service Officers (VSOs)
  • Visit a VA regional office 

Make sure you state that you are applying for at least one of the presumed Camp Lejeune illnesses when you file and upload evidence (such as a doctor's report or medical test results).

Are veterans and their family members covered for healthcare?

Health care benefits are available to veterans and their dependents who served at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River for at least 30 days between August 1953 and December 1987 and were impacted by Camp Lejeune's toxic water contamination. If they have suffer from any of the15 conditions below, the Veterans Administration may be able to reimburse them:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Female infertility
  • Hepatic steatosis
  • Kidney cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Lung cancer
  • Miscarriage
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Neurobehavioral effects
  • Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • Renal toxicity
  • Scleroderma

How do I get these benefits as a family member?

Your disability compensation claim will require evidence (supporting documents) that you should provide as soon as possible. It is your responsibility to provide the following:

  • Documentation that proves your relationship with a veteran who served on active duty at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days — marriage license, birth certificate, or adoption papers
  • A utility bill, a record of housing at the base, a military order, or your tax forms dated during August 1953 through December 1987
  • Medical records indicating you are suffering from one of the 15 conditions listed above — include the date of your diagnosis and whether you are currently being treated or have been treated in the past
  • Receipt that you paid for health care for your claimed condition during a specified period

During one of the following periods, you will need to provide evidence that you have made the payment:

  • Between January 1, 1957 and December 31, 1987 (if you lived on Camp Lejeune during this period, you could apply for reimbursement for care received after August 6, 2012, but not more than two years before your application date)
  • Between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1956 — VA will reimburse you for any care you received from December 16, 2014, or within two years from when you applied for benefits, as long as you lived there

If you have a treating physician report (VA Form 10-10068b) from Camp Lejeune Family Member Program, you may want to attach it.

This form should be filled out and signed by your doctor before submission. 

How can I file a claim?

The Camp Lejeune Family Member Program Application has to be filled out in its entirety (VA Form 10-10068).

  • Fax it to 512-460-5536
  • Mail it to:

Department of Veterans Affairs

Financial Services Center

PO Box 149200

Austin, TX 78714-9200

Don't hesitate to contact the VA's Camp Lejeune Family Member Program at 866-372-1144 if you have any questions regarding your application. To learn how hard it is to get VA disability claims, visit this blog by Disability Help.

Victor Traylor
An expert to the field of Social Justice, Victor formed Disability Help to connect ideas and expertise from the US with rising global cultural leadership, building networks, fostering collaboration, long-term results, mutual benefit, and more extensive international perception.
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