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What Happened at Camp Lejeune?

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July 5, 2023

Camp Lejeune is a United States Marine Corps base located in Jacksonville, North Carolina. For decades, the base was contaminated with harmful chemicals that affected as many as one million servicemen and women, civilian staff, and their families who lived there. The situation remained unresolved for years, causing many people to suffer serious health problems, including cancers, birth defects, and neurological problems. Now, the victims of Camp Lejeune are taking legal action to bring those responsible for these atrocities to justice. If you think you may be a victim of Camp Lejeune and want to ask someone about your legal right to compensation, the lawyers at Morris James are available. Contact us online or by calling 302.655.2599 for a free consultation. Attorneys Keith Donovan and Matt Fogg will be happy to answer all of your questions.

When was contaminated water found at Camp Lejeune?

The contamination at Camp Lejeune started in the 1950s and persisted for at least 30 years. (The specific period used for the purposes of claiming benefits or compensation for the contamination is August 1, 1953, to December 31, 1987.) The chemicals involved included Trichloroethylene (TCE), a common industrial solvent, Perchloroethylene (PCE), a dry-cleaning chemical, and Benzene. These chemicals were used aggressively on the base, leading to extensive seepage into the surroundings, and eventually, the water systems used by the base and the nearby communities.

In 1982, water contamination was discovered in two of the eight water treatment plants at the base, but the extent of the problem was not fully realized until years later. Most of the contaminated plants were finally shut down in 1985, and in 1989 the Environmental Protection Agency designated Camp Lejeune a Superfund Site on its National Priorities List of hazardous waste sites in the U.S.

For years, Camp Lejeune activists campaigned to uncover the toxic dangers at Camp Lejeune and tell the world about the tragic consequences for the people who lived on the base. Finally, in 2008, the National Defense Authorization Act officially required the Department of the Navy, together with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), to conduct a health survey of persons possibly exposed to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune, and the dangers of Camp Lejeune were acknowledged. In 2012, the Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act (known as the Janey Ensminger Act after a child victim of Camp Lejeune) was passed, providing healthcare for service members and their families who were subjected to the Camp Lejeune contamination. And in 2022, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 made it possible for eligible individuals to file claims against the United States government for compensation for damages suffered as a result of the Camp Lejeune water contamination. Our team of attorneys at Morris James is helping families across the country pursue these claims and seek compensation for their suffering.

What caused Camp Lejeune water contamination?

Water on the Camp Lejeune base came from eight water treatment plants. Three of those plants were found to be supplying water that was contaminated with toxic chemicals at levels 240 to 3400 times higher than allowed by federal safety standards - Tarawa Terrace, Hadnot Point, and Holcomb Boulevard:

Tarawa Terrace

This plant served Camp Lejeune’s Tarawa Terrace family housing and the Knox trailer park. The primary source of contamination at the Tarawa Terrace Water Treatment Plant was an off-base dry-cleaner, ABC One-Hour Cleaners. The solvent used in dry cleaning contains toxic PCE (perchloroethylene or tetrachloroethylene), and the dry cleaners were disposing of this toxic waste down the drains and through improper burial of the waste, resulting in these toxins seeping into the soil and water supply of the base.

Hadnot Point

Hadnot Point water treatment plant served the mainside barracks, Hospital Point family housing, and the family housing at Midway Park, Paradise Point, and Berkeley Manor on the base. The water from Hadnot Point was contaminated with TCE (trichloroethylene), PCE, benzene, TCE degradation products trans-1,2-DCE (t-1,2-dichloroethylene,) and vinyl chloride. The biggest contaminant in this water was TCE. The contaminants came from leaking underground storage tanks, industrial area spills, and waste disposal sites.

Holcomb Boulevard

Holcomb Boulevard supplied water to the family housing at Midway Park, Paradise Point, Berkeley Manor, Watkins Village, and Tarawa Terrace family housing at Camp Lejeune. The water from this plant was generally not contaminated but for short periods when demand was high, or when the Holcomb Boulevard plant was shut down, water from the contaminated Hadnot Point plant was used to supplement this system.

What illnesses did the Camp Lejeune contamination cause?

The people who lived on the Camp Lejeune base used the water for drinking, food preparation, brushing their teeth, bathing, and all the everyday activities that families do. Many people who were exposed to the contaminated water developed serious and life-threatening illnesses. People developed rashes and migraines, babies were stillborn, and families lost loved ones. It is reported that Camp Lejeune is related to the largest known cluster of male breast cancer cases in the country. The full effects of the Camp Lejeune water contamination are still not known because children who lived or were born on the camp are still receiving cancer diagnoses today.

Some of the stories that have emerged from Camp Lejeune include heartbreaking accounts of young children dying of leukemia, mothers dying from acute myeloid leukemia decades after leaving the base, and families with multiple babies buried in “Baby Heaven”, a section of the cemetery near the base. Officially, these are some of the conditions that have been associated with exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune:

Kidney cancer

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

Cardiac defects

Bladder cancer


Liver cancer


Multiple myeloma

End-stage renal disease

Parkinson disease


Breast Cancer


Fetal death

Birth defects

What should I do if I have been affected by Camp Lejeune contamination?

If you or your deceased family member were stationed at, lived on, or worked as a civilian at Camp Lejeune for more than 30 days from August 1, 1953, to December 31, 1987, you may be eligible for legal action. To be eligible to recover monetary benefits under the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination law, you must demonstrate that you or your deceased family member was exposed to the contaminated water while at Camp Lejeune. This exposure must be linked to the illnesses or conditions that you are experiencing.

If you have been diagnosed with a health problem related to the Camp Lejeune contamination, you may be entitled to compensation to cover your medical bills and other expenses. Contact a Camp Lejeune contamination attorney, like the attorneys at Morris James, as soon as possible to find out more about your legal rights.

Morris James attorneys are helping victims of Camp Lejeune

At Morris James, our attorneys have been standing up for victims since we opened our doors in 1932. If you have questions about water contamination at Camp Lejeune, you may find answers in our Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit FAQs, or you can contact us online or call us at 302.655.2599 to speak to one of our experienced attorneys. Attorneys Keith Donovan and Matt Fogg will be happy to answer all of your questions.

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