Living in a military area like Sacramento County it saddens us to report that between the years of 1953 to 1987, the drinking water at the United States Marine Corps (USMC) Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina may have been contaminated. Between those years nearly a million civilian workers, military service members, and their families were potentially exposed to toxic chemicals known to cause cancer and other serious health issues.
The Marine Corps originally discovered these chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune in 1982. From the information available the actual contamination began in 1953 and went unabated until 1987. This means for 34 years base and service workers, military service members along with families were exposed to toxic chemicals and VOC’s in the drinking water. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) these chemicals are considered carcinogenic and even though most of the contaminated wells were removed from service in February 1985 the potential damage had already been done. The ATSDR reports that between the 1950s and 1980s, two of Camp Lejeune’s water treatment plants – Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point – were contaminated with VOC’s.
The toxic VOCs found in the drinking water at Camp LeJeune included:
- Benzene:Used to make other chemicals that compose plastics, resins, and nylon and synthetic fibers
- Tetrachloroethylene (also known as perchloroethylene or PCE): For dry cleaning and metal degreasing
- Trichloroethylene (TCE):A solvent used to clean metal parts
- Vinyl chloride (VC):Over time, TCE and PCE in groundwater degrade to become VC.
Benzene, TCE, and VC are all classified as cancer-causing chemicals, while PCE is classified as probably carcinogenic. Exposure to these chemicals can also increase the risk of birth defects and other health problems. VOC’s are known to cause cancer and other serious health issues.
In June 2022, the U.S. government finally passed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2021. This act was part of the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. The Honoring Our PACT Act focuses on addressing issues that affect veterans who were exposed to toxic materials during service. Because of this new law, those who were exposed can now seek compensation by filing a Camp Lejeune lawsuit after having been denied justice for so many years.
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