UNITED STATES—Between the 1950s and the mid-1980s, two of the water supplies of the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina were contaminated. But the discovery was only made in 1982.
Sadly, military personnel, their families, and civilian workers at the base were exposed to the contaminants in the water, and many have since developed a variety of health conditions as a result.
The contaminants in the water increased the risk of multiple types of cancer, including kidney cancer, leukemias, and types of myeloma, as well as birth defects and other adverse health conditions.
The Contamination of the Tarawa Terrace Water Supply
The two contaminated water-supply systems at Camp Lejeune were the Tarawa Terrace water treatment plant and the Hadnot Point water system.
After testing was conducted in the early 1980s, it was found that the former contained the industrial solvents trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene.
The source of the contaminants was found to be an off-base dry-cleaning company, which, like all dry cleaners, regularly used TCE and PCE for the process of dry cleaning.
Perchloroethylene was the primary contaminant found in the wells that served the Tarawa Terrace system.
The substance can be highly carcinogenic and can cause long-term health problems associated with the kidneys, the respiratory tract, and coordination. And consistent long-term exposure to PCE can raise the risk of developing certain types of cancer.
For more information, check out this helpful article about what caused Camp Lejeune water contamination and what to do if you developed a health condition after being based at Camp Lejeune.
The Contamination of the Hadnot Point Water Supply
The cause of the Hadnot Point water supply’s contamination is more complex. It involved multiple contaminants from multiple sources, including leaks from underground storage tanks and spills at industrial sites.
Trichloroethylene was the main contaminant found in the Hadnot Point water supply.
TCE is a solvent used by manufacturers to remove grease from metal. Seeing as it has no color, it is very difficult to detect when it enters a water supply, hence the reason for it going unnoticed at Camp Lejeune for so long.
Also, TCE breaks down slowly, which means it can accumulate in groundwater and soil over a lengthy period of time. Like PCE, TCE can significantly increase the risk of various types of cancer. It is particularly associated with the development of kidney cancer.
Other contaminants that were found in the Hadnot Point water supply were PCE, benzene, and vinyl chloride.
Vinyl Chloride and Benzene
We have seen how dangerous both PCE and TCE can be and what health conditions they can cause, but the contaminants of vinyl chloride and benzene, found in the Hadnot Point water supply, can also be very harmful.
Vinyl chloride, which is used commercially for a variety of purposes, such as making plastic for pipe coverings, can increase the risk of cancers like lung cancer, liver cancer, brain cancer, and leukemia.
Benzene, which is commonly used in products like detergents, pesticides, and lubricants, can cause cells to not work properly when ingested.
Exposure to benzene can damage the immune system, decrease white blood cells, and lead to anemia. And long-term exposure to benzene can significantly increase the risk of leukemia.
What Should You Do if You Were at Camp Lejeune During the Contamination Period and Developed a Health Condition?
If you were exposed to the contaminants in the water supplies to Camp Lejeune and developed a health condition as a result, you can pursue compensation.
Your first step should be to consult a lawyer who specializes in the contamination of Camp Lejeune’s water supply. You can then learn about the options available to you and begin the process of pursuing compensation.