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Did Camp Lejeune’s Contaminated Water Supply Lead to Illnesses?

Water Fountain

For thirty years, from 1957 to 1987, chemicals flowed freely into the water supply used by Marines and their families at Camp Lejeune, a U.S. Marine Corps base in North Carolina.

There were no water-quality regulation standards in place back then. In fact, it was not until 1981 when military officials first tested the water supply and discovered that two out of eight water treatment systems on the base were contaminated with a metal degreaser, trichloroethylene (TCE); a dry cleaning solvent, tetrachloroethylene (PCE); benzene, a highly flammable fuel component; and other carbon-based chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). However, the toxic wells that supplied the Hadnot Point and Tarawa Terrace water systems were not closed down until 1987 – five years after the discovery.

These chemicals are now listed as hazardous cancer-causing carcinogens by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They are all linked to cancers of the liver, kidney, lung, breast, and to cause leukemia.  

Slow Reaction to Toxic Water Supply

However, ten years after the shutdown, in 1997, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, did not recognize TCE and PCE as carcinogens, and failed to include benzene, which was a known carcinogen at that time, into their research of the water supply at Camp Lejeune. They issued a report concluding that no direct harm to Marines and their families occurred because of exposure to the contaminated water supply.

More Marines, Family Members, Get Sick

Even so, there were reports from Marine veterans of illness and severe cancers in themselves and in their families. Up to a million people over the 30-year period may have been exposed to the contaminated water. It took the U.S. Marine Corps 24 years to make it known to them about the potential hazards of the water supply to their health. Congress mandated them to notify veteran personnel in 2008.

Also, the ATSDR report was withdrawn in 2009 because it did not take the effects of benzene into consideration. ATSDR is researching again whether illnesses in service men and women and their families could be linked to exposure to the contaminated water supply.  The results are expected to be finalized in 2011.

Congressional Sub-Committee Takes Action

A sub-committee of the House of Representatives Science and Technology Committee is also probing for answers.  It is chaired by Brad Miller (D-NC), who introduced a bill to Congress in February, 2010 named after Janey Ensminger, who was exposed prenatally to Camp Lejeune water.  Janey died in 1985 of childhood leukemia at the age of nine. The Janey Ensminger Act would require the Veterans Administration (VA) to provide health care services to veterans and their families who have illnesses caused by their exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. Currently, family members are not eligible to apply for VA disability benefits.

The sub-committee is working to establish a clear connection to cancers and illnesses in veterans and their families from exposure to carcinogenic toxins in the Camp Lejeune water.

We expect their findings and the new ATSDR report will change the way the VA looks at disability claims from veterans stationed at Camp Lejeune at that time.  So far the VA is taking them on a case-by-case basis.

 The Alpha Connection – Why We Care

How many Marine veterans are now experiencing severe health conditions and don’t know about the service connection to Camp Lejeune?

This is why we ask Marine veterans if they were stationed there, when, and for how long. Even if they lived there for six months, that was a long enough period to later experience severe, and long-term, side effects. 

At Alpha, we are in a position to quickly identify Camp Lejeune veterans and establish if their health condition was caused to their exposure to the toxic water.

As the sub-committee headed by Chairman Miller continues its investigation – a hearing was held this past September – we will closely watch its progress.

The Alpha team is hoping for a positive resolution for these Marines who never expected they were putting themselves, and their families, in harm’s way while on American soil.

Note: All representation coordinated by Alpha is provided by our employees, the Advocates, who are accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). No private organization that trains and employs accredited agents has been legally recognized by the VA for the purposes of preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims. This work must be done by the Advocates themselves and not organizations.

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18 comments to “Did Camp Lejeune’s Contaminated Water Supply Lead to Illnesses?”

  • Ronnie Charles Parsons, May 28, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    Station at camp Lejeune from 1979 to 1981. Having health problem that can’t be explain. 704 516 8235

  • Eligio, June 14, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    station at camp lejeune from 1979 to 1982, liver disorder, vitiligo, high blood, high cholestrol, diabetes ( vision, hearing, loss), nerve pain, memory is failing…etc..

  • Lynn, June 29, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    Was at Camp Lejeune in 1983 and 1985, have hypoglycemeia, hypothroid, and diabetes mellitus type II. Some other female issues.

  • hayes, November 2, 2011 at 11:01 am

    at lejeune in 78,lost all theeth in 6mths,have ibs joint pain never loss

  • PHILIP W RODRIGUEZ, December 22, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    AT CAMP LEJUNE IN 75 LOST ALMOST ALL MY TEETH, DIABETES TYPE 2, ERICTILE DISFUNCTION, HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE,MOOD SWINGS

  • Z Leatherbury, February 7, 2012 at 8:04 am

    Stationed at Camp Lejune in 1979, Chronic Joint pain, RA, Severe Headache, Lost most of my teeth.

  • Alpha, February 8, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    At this time, while the VA and the government have conceded that veterans who were stationed at Camp Lejune were exposed to toxic chemicals in the drinking water, they have not concluded that the exposure led to any disabilities. The burden remains on the applicant to provide medical evidence that a condition you have now was due to the exposure.

  • SSGT. JIMMY L. JONES, May 24, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    hi out there to all my former and present Marines my name is ssgt. jimmy jones i was station at Camp lejeune from 1979-1988, at the present i have been dianois with high blood pressure, thyroids, vision prolems, pass out in 2005, had a blood clug in my right ear which lead to a complete open ear operation in 2006, i have lose 12 of my teeth and have been dianios which periodonotal disease of my mouth. We Marines need to stick together on this water contamination issues.

  • Hope Gillispie, July 2, 2012 at 3:25 am

    Hello, I am the daughter of a Marine who served in legeune from 80 to 85. He as well has been diagnosed with diabetes. He has also lost his teeth, just rotting out of his mouth. Hearing loss is very significant as well.

  • Hope Gillispie, July 2, 2012 at 3:27 am

    My mother also had a miscarriage while we were stationed there and my twin sister and myself were about 4 years old when we were moved there.

  • Alpha, July 9, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    Hope,

    Here at Alpha, we focus on veterans disabled in a war theater or those veterans with an appeal. We recommend that you advise your father to file a claim for his ailments that he attributes to his military service to the nearest VA regional office. The VA website has a locator. The toxic effects of exposures in Camp Lejune are still under investigation, but historically, those veterans that applied for the benefit before the creation of a favorable law benefited better than those who waited for the law.

  • James C Edwards, September 20, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Iwas stationed at camp lejune from 1973 to 1975.Iwas a cook/ammo co.now i suffer from diabetes,ischemic heart diease, hypertension,nueraphty,vision etc.recently had leg amputated because of diabetes.

  • Christopher A. Mitchell, February 4, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    I was station at Camp Gieger June to Dec, 1970 was I affected?????

  • Earl thornton U.S.M.C. Ret., May 28, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    I was station at Lejeune/Gieger during the late 1970,s an some of 1971. I have had cancerous polyps removed and prostate removed for cancer. Am I a victims

  • Joyce Sewell Shelden, May 28, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    I was stationed there with my husband David Charles Ruehl in 1967-68. I have lost all of my teeth over the years. Also had larynx cancer in 2009.

  • Marion Smalls, June 8, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    I was station at Camp Lejeune NC from1882-1983,1986-1991 I don’t really know the symptoms that may occurred from the exposer but I have been getting treatment for my skin in which I now have rashes all over my body and the doctor can’t find a cure. After I got out of the Marine I was having very bad headache inwhich I was diagnosed of having high blood pressure and piece of my teeth just chip off for unknown reason.

  • KEITH POPE, January 24, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    MY BROYHER WAS STATIONED AT lAJUENE7981 HE HAS HIS FEET SWOLLEN CANT STAND EVEN WEARINH SHOES HE HAS SKIN PAIN AND HID BOTHY STRUVTURE IS BREAKING DOWN I HAVE HIGH PRESSURE ERECTILE DISFUNCTION PERMANENTLE MAYBE ONCW A YESR I CAN SO DO WE GET A INDIVIDUAL ATTORNEY SUE LEJUENS \E R MILITARY GOV WHO R ALL WILL THEY GIVE BACKPAY THEY ALWAYS SAY UR FINE WHEN WE GO TO OSP NOONE HAS SAID A WORD OF CONTAAMINATION

  • Emory D.Kendridk, June 20, 2014 at 3:04 am

    I was station at Camp-Lejeune in 1971 to1973, I have lost my theeth, hearing loss, high cholestrol. liver damage and vision lost.

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