A Timeline of the Camp Lejeune Crisis

by Ed Scanlan on

As the Camp Lejeune Justice Act into law, we look back on the years of developments in the water crisis at the marine core base camp.

For decades, hundreds of thousands of people were diagnosed with cancer and other serious illness after drinking contaminated water at North Carolina’s U.S. Marine Core Base Camp Lejeune. 

This month, President Joe Biden signed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act into law, which allows individuals who were exposed to tainted water to seek compensation from the federal government. While this development will help thousands of victims, many service members and families have been suffering for years without the ability to obtain any compensation. The Act allows those who lived, worked or were stationed at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987 to file a claim.

Here is a look back on the crisis over the decades: 

1980-1987: Water testing reveals high levels of contamination at Camp Lejeune

After conducting a water sample in 1980 and 1981, the Marine Corps first found chemicals in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune. In 1982, a second survey identified unsafe levels of the contaminants trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene or PCE). By 1985, the federal government shut down some of the contaminated wells on Camp Lejeune, however, the process of removing all the contaminants wasn’t completed until 1987 when the water was deemed completely safe. 

2009: First lawsuit is filed 22 years after the cleanup. 

Almost two decades since the clean up, a wife of a former Marine, Laura Jones, filed the first lawsuit against the federal government over the water contamination. In her lawsuit, Jones said she was exposed to dangerous chemicals in the Camp’s water supply, resulting in her being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL).

2012: Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 is signed into law.

In 2012, President Barack Obama signed the “Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012” into law. The law allowed the United States Department of Veterans Affairs to provide health care benefits to service members who served at Camp Lejeune. Those families who incurred health care costs would also be eligble for reimbursement. 

2017: Veterans begin to file for VA benefits under the new act.

Five years after the act passed, the VA began accepting claims for compensation for service members stationed at Camp Lejeune. A total of $2.2 billon in approved claims for promised to be paid over the next five years although many eligible veterans were denied compensation completely. 

2021: Camp Lejeune water claim discussions return to Congress. 

Last year, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act was introduced in Congress in an effort to remove the legal hurdles that prevented service members from receiving the VA benefits under the previous act. The new act still only provides eligibility for claims for service members must have been on-base for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987. 

August 2022: Camp Lejeune Justice Act has passed the U.S. Senate and is signed into law.

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act is approved on August 2, 2022 allowing those who lost loved ones or suffered due to the toxins in Camp Lejeune’s water to file for financial compensation for medical costs, physical and emotional damages. 

Join leading attorneys Mikal Watts and Raymond Silverman as they discuss the history of Camp Lejuene water contamination, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2021, and the future of this litigation.

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