On August 8th, 2022 the Camp Lejeune Justice Act was signed into law. The bill was the subject of months of extensive debate and negotiation in Congress before finally passing. Since its passage, it’s become one of the most widely discussed mass tort cases in recent history. But what exactly is it? And why has it become the subject of intense discussion, scrutiny, and contest on airwaves and television channels? First, let’s take a look at some of the key factors involved, including, Camp Lejeune itself.
Built in 1941, Camp Lejeune is a 246-square-mile United States military training base located in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Home to the largest Marine Corps base on the Eastern seaboard, it’s located along 14-miles of beaches and features a population of approximately 170,000 people, a large portion of which are military service men and women as well as their immediate family members. It was these service members and their families who were unknowingly exposed to the carcinogenic compounds and solvents that this bill seeks to address—with some advocates estimating that over one million individuals may have been affected, with that number growing every day.
In as early as 1980, the base began testing the waters for trihalomethanes, chemical compounds often found in solvents and refrigerants. More so, recent reports have summarily concluded that from 1953 to 1987, people who lived and/or worked at the camp drank and bathed in water that was contaminated with toxins at concentrations from 240 to 3400 times levels permitted by acceptable safety standards. These containments were primarily comprised of volatile organic compounds, otherwise known as VOCs, and included cleaning solvents such as perchloroethylene (PCE), a dry-cleaning solvent, and trichloroethylene (TCE), a degreaser, with possible sources for the contamination being an off-base dry-cleaning company as well as on-base units that utilized these chemicals to clean military equipment. To date, an excess of 70 chemicals have been identified amongst the contaminants found in the water Camp Lejeune.
In 2017, VA officials established eight presumptive conditions believed to be linked to the water, including adult leukemia, kidney cancer, and a variety of other serious health conditions. Sadly, despite the harm suffered, potential victims were unable to receive compensation since the statute of repose in North Carolina precluded, or prevented, individuals from filing a claim after 10 years—far too late after the initial exposure had occurred or even identified. Thankfully, this new law (Camp Lejeune Act) overrides the statute in North Carolina and allows for those exposed to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune to seek, and receive, compensation for the harm they suffered.
If you, a friend, or a family member has been potentially affected by this tragedy, please feel free to contact Rittgers Rittgers & Nakajima – Attorneys at Law to begin the pursuit for justice. We have no intention of having thousands of clients and prefer local clients so that we can adequately represent each person.