Who is responsible for Camp Lejeune water contamination? 

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Who is responsible for Camp Lejeune water contamination? 

In the 1980s, the U.S. military base at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina discovered that its water supply was contaminated with hazardous chemicals. These toxins have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, congenital disabilities, and Parkinson’s disease. More than a million people lived at Camp Lejeune during the period of contamination, and many may have been exposed to these toxic chemicals.

So the big question is, who is responsible for Camp Lejeune’s water contamination? This is still being investigated, but it’s clear that those who were affected by the contamination deserve answers and compensation. Read on to learn more about this troubling case or contact our lawyers if you need representation.

Who is responsible for the water contamination at Camp Lejeune?

Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune is responsible for the water contamination at Camp Lejeune. The Marines were using a chemical called trichloroethylene (TCE) in their dry cleaning operations at the base, and this chemical eventually contaminated the groundwater.

In 1985, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began investigating the issue. They found high levels of TCE in well water throughout much of the base, including wells near housing areas. The EPA also discovered that the Marines had not properly disposed of TCE waste.

After learning of the problem, the EPA required the Marines to take immediate action to stop the leak. The agency then took over the management of the cleanup effort. Additionally, base officials hired a contractor to test drinking water supplies around the base.

Source of water contamination

Camp Lejeune sits along the Neuse River, which flows into Pamlico Sound. The river receives most of its water from rainwater runoff and underground springs.

During World War II, the Army built a pipeline to bring fresh water from the Neuse River to the base. After the war ended, the pipeline became part of the city sewer system. However, the pipeline was never fully connected to the sewage treatment plant. As a result, some hazardous waste water leaked out from underground storage tanks, where it was mixed with groundwater.

These waste disposal practices continued after the Marine Corps moved to Camp Lejeune in 1957. The base used large amounts of TCE as a solvent in its laundry operations. It also stored other types of hazardous chemicals in open containers. The Navy later acquired the land surrounding the base and used it as a bombing range. It also conducted training exercises there. According to the EPA, these activities caused additional pollution.

Health survey confirms health risks

In 1986, the EPA tested drinking water samples taken from base residents. They found elevated levels of TCE in several locations. The highest level measured was 1,200 parts per billion (ppb). That’s 200 times higher than what the EPA considers safe.

Based on these results, the EPA concluded that residents living near the base faced a significant risk of exposure to TCE. Community studies also showed that children born after the contamination occurred had birth defects and other health problems.

In 1989, the EPA ordered the base to install new water systems. The agency also required the installation of filtration systems to remove contaminants from the water. The EPA has continued monitoring the area since then. In 2004, they reported that TCE levels remained above acceptable limits.

Epidemiologic evidence suggests that TCE exposure increases the risk of developing some types of cancer. In addition, animal studies indicate that TCE may cause liver damage.

However, human studies have not been able to confirm this link. Sufficient evidence exists to conclude that TCE exposure causes other adverse health effects. These include neurological disorders, kidney disease, and respiratory illness.

How does TCE get into our drinking water?

TCE enters the environment through industrial site processes. It is used in many manufacturing industries, including paper mills, paint factories, textile plants, and petroleum refineries.

It is also released into the environment when gasoline leaks or spills. When gasoline mixes with air, it forms volatile organic compounds, such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, and methyl tert-butyl ether. These substances are known as BTEX.

When people breathe in these gases, they can enter their bodies through the lungs. The response to inhalation exposure varies depending on the type of chemical involved. Some chemicals can be absorbed by the body quickly. Others take longer to affect the body.

What are the health risks of Camp Lejeune water pollution?

According to the EPA, there is no safe level of toxic exposure to TCE. Even low-level exposures can cause serious health problems. Children, pregnant women, and people with existing illnesses or conditions such as kidney disease are especially vulnerable to the effects of TCE.

Additional investigations have shown that children living near Camp Lejeune were more likely to develop certain types of cancers, including leukemia and brain tumors. Other studies have suggested links between TCE and other diseases, including Parkinson’s disease.

Exposure Categories

The EPA classifies TCE exposure based on how much time someone spends exposed to the chemical. The Agency uses three categories:

Category I – Short term exposure

People who spend less than one hour outside each day may be exposed to high levels of TCE. These people should avoid contact with contaminated soil and water.

Category II – Medium term exposure

People who work at the base for more than one hour each day may be exposed. This category includes workers who live off base but visit the base regularly.

Category III – Long term exposure

People who live at the base full-time face long-term exposure to dangerous chemicals. This group includes military personnel and their families.

Note: the EPA defines unacceptable levels of TCE exposure as being greater than 100 ppb.

Can leukemia be caused by contaminated water?

Adverse health effects from TCE exposure include liver damage, birth defects, neurological disorders, and cancer. One study has suggested that TCE could increase the risk of developing certain types of blood cancers, specifically acute myeloid leukemia (AML). However, other studies have failed to find any link between TCE and AML.

Polluted water can lead to a variety of different diseases. For example, hepatitis A is spread through fecal matter, which comes from animals that drink polluted water. Hepatitis E is spread through contaminated food and water. Both of these viruses can cause severe illness or even death if left untreated. Similarly, the harmful effects of water contamination can vary depending on whether you’re exposed to bacteria or parasites.

Is heart disease part of Camp Lejeune water contamination?

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Some strong evidence suggests that TCE may contribute to this type of disease. Pilot studies have linked TCE exposure to an increased risk of coronary artery disease. This condition occurs when plaque builds up inside arteries, restricting blood flow.

However, other research has concluded that TCE does not appear to play a role in causing cardiovascular disease. The effects of exposure to contaminants may depend on how long someone has been exposed to them.

Is kidney disease part of Camp Lejeune’s tainted water?

 Additional studies have found that TCE may affect the kidneys. In particular, researchers have observed that civilian workers who handled TCE had higher protein levels in their urine than those who did not handle the chemical. Potential health effects include chronic nephritis and renal tubular dysfunction.

However, suggestive evidence indicates that TCE may cause kidney disease although other studies have found no association between TCE and kidney disease.

What cancers are associated with Camp Lejeune water contamination?

 Animal cancer studies suggest that TCE may cause cancer of the bladder, breast, colon, lung, prostate, and skin. Human epidemiologic studies have also found associations between TCE exposure and various forms of cancer.

These include:

  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
  • Colon cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Skin cancer
  • Breast cancer

Adverse health outcomes resulting from TCE exposure may differ based on age at the time of exposure. Chronic exposure to TCE may result in adverse health outcomes such as cancer and reproductive problems. Adult exposure normally results in more serious health issues than childhood exposure.

In fact, maternal exposure to TCE during pregnancy will result in adverse birth outcomes, including low birth weight, preterm birth, and neural tube defects. Fetuses are most vulnerable to environmental toxins during the first trimester of gestation.

What illnesses are associated with Camp Lejeune?

Camp Lejeune was home to approximately 50,000 military personnel at the time of its closure. The majority of them were stationed there during World War II. Many of these soldiers were exposed to TCE while working at the base.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that about 1,200 veterans of the Korean conflict died due to exposure to TCE. Association between inhalation exposure to TCE and respiratory system disorders has been reported.

Other illnesses related to a certain extent of contamination exposure:

  • Hepatitis
  • Leukemia
  • Kidney disease
  • Lung disease
  • Neurological disorders
  • Reproductive complications
  • Autoimmune diseases

What are the legal implications of Camp Lejeune toxic water?

In 1997, the US government paid $671 million to settle claims by residents living near the base. The settlement included compensation for people who lived or worked at the base before 1986.

In addition to monetary payments, the federal government agreed to provide free medical care to eligible individuals. Health care providers must report any cases of diseases caused by exposure to TCE. This includes both acute and chronic health effects.

In 2000, the US Environmental Protection Agency added TCE to the list of chemicals known to be hazardous under the Clean Air Act. As a result, companies that manufacture TCE must notify EPA if they plan to release the chemical into the air. Companies that fail to do so can face fines.

Supreme Court ruling on Camp Lejeune toxic waste case

On June 29, 2012, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the US government cannot force former residents of Camp Lejeune to pay for their own medical treatment. In this case, the plaintiffs claimed that the government had failed to adequately warn them about the dangers of drinking contaminated water at the base.

Federal courts also ordered the government to compensate former residents for damages suffered because of the government’s failure to protect against the risk of contracting cancer.

How does the US government handle Camp Lejeune toxic cleanup?

In 1999, Congress passed the Superfund law, which created the National Priorities List (NPL). The NPL contains thousands of sites that pose significant threats to human health and the environment. Remedial investigations are conducted at each site. If contaminants exceed safe levels, remediation may be required. 


Legal action regarding Camp Lejeune’s toxic contamination is ongoing. However, it is unlikely that the US government will fully reimburse all contamination victims. Safety standards have improved since the 1970s. Therefore, many of the problems associated with the contamination could have been avoided.

So if you have questions about your rights as a victim of Camp Lejeune’s contamination, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to get answers to your questions.