Camp Lejeune’s Water Crisis: Uncovering the Truth

Camp Lejeune’s water contamination was long a source of controversy and conflict until the truth was finally revealed. It took many years for the story to be told, even after the water was made safe.

lawyer talking about camp lejeune's water crisis

Known Problems

In the 1970s, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) branded Camp Lejeune a “major polluter.” In 1974, the Marine Corps already knew about the dangers of organic solvents they allowed dumped into the water. The Corps claimed in the 1980s that the organic solvents were not regulated at the time, but the dangers were already well known. Regulations from the Department of Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery barred harmful substances in the base’s water, but the base never released that regulation.

These regulations were in force at the time, and other military bases closed tainted wells once they discovered contamination. The Marine Corps still denied responsibility and did not address the problem, despite evidence and the high rate of illnesses that were evident in its population.

Outside Testing

In October of 1980, facing increasing environmental regulation, the Marine Corps began its testing of the base’s drinking water, alleging the finding of “trace amounts.” The base claimed it did not receive the test results until 1982 and did not investigate further.

Concurrently, an Army lab began testing treated water from Lejeune’s Hadnot Point water system for a chemical by-product of chlorination. Other chemicals present were so high that they interfered with the test results. The lab continued to test the base’s water and found increasingly high rates of contaminants, and the Corps ignored these warnings.

In 1982, Raleigh-based Granger Laboratories conducted additional testing on the base’s water. Chemists were stunned at the extent of the contamination, finding “synthetic organic cleaning solvents” in base housing where thousands of people lived. Grainger sent multiple reports to the base showing the high contamination of the wells, urging them to take immediate action. These reports were ignored by the Corps.

Camp Lejeune concluded its report on base water contamination in 1983 and sent copies to state regulators. The reports failed to include information on the contamination of drinking water. State regulators requested original copies of the reports, but the Corps never responded.

Finally, the base acknowledged the problem in 1984 and gradually began notifying residents and former residents while effecting cleanup. All contaminated wells were shut down by early 1985. The base’s then-commanding General claimed that amounts were “minute,” but reports said otherwise. The solvent levels in several locations exceeded 280% of the amount the EPA considered “safe.” It was the highest contamination ever seen in a city-sized public water system.

The EPA Steps In

The Environmental Protection Agency then opened an investigation into Camp Lejeune. The Corps provided initial overviews that included incorrect information, such as identifying contamination in 1983 or 1984 from “unidentified” chemicals. The Corps knew long before and knew what they were. The Corps also didn’t notify the EPA or the state about tanks leaking thousands of gallons of fuel into the ground and contaminating wells.

The water contamination ended in 1987. In 1989, Camp Lejeune was designated as a Superfund site.

Those who became ill while stationed or working at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, finally began to understand why they and everyone else became seriously ill after living or working on the base.

Camp Lejeune Claim? Contact The Herren Law Firm Today

For over 30 years, the Herren law firm has helped veterans and disabled people with their benefit claims and appeals. We have extensive experience dealing with governmental agencies and the claims filed with them.

If you or someone you know became ill after being stationed at Camp Lejeune, contact us immediately.

We’ve helped over 4,000 people, and we can help you as well. Contact us today by calling (713) 682-8194 or using our online contact form. Your consultation is free, and you won’t owe us a fee until we win your case.

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