Free Consultation:212-766-5222

Leav and Steinberg Team

How Did the Water at Camp Lejeune Become Contaminated?

Close up photo of a water drop creating ripples

Many scientists consider what happened at Camp Lejeune to be the worst water contamination event in U.S. history. Thousands of military veterans and their family members have suffered from illness and even death due to the carelessness of Camp Lejeune officials and the federal government.

But how did this awful situation unfold, and what specifically contaminated the water at Camp Lejeune?

Learn specific details from Camp Lejeune injury law firm, Leav & Steinberg LLP below.

What Caused Camp Lejeune’s Water to Become Contaminated?

Multiple things caused the water at Camp Lejeune to become contaminated.

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, water supply wells at Camp Lejeune were contaminated by a slew of sources, including industrial area spills, water disposal sites, and leaking underground water storage tanks.

Local records show that military officials at Camp Lejeune dumped industrial wastewater and oil into storm drains — eventually making their way into the water supply. These officials were also careless with the disposal of radioactive materials, burying things like dogs used for testing around the camp’s grounds.

One of the most significant sources of water pollution was a nearby dry cleaning business that, for years, dumped wastewater filled with dry cleaning chemicals into drains. The chemicals they disposed of improperly included tetrachloroethylene, an industrial product and suspected carcinogen.

Marines used this same substance to clean Camp Lejeune regularly.

Camp Lejeune Water Contaminants

Tetrachloroethylene (PCE) is the main substance that contaminated the drinking water at Camp Lejeune. Traditionally, tetrachloroethylene has been used to dry clean fabrics, degrease metal parts, and create other chemicals.

Simply breathing in tetrachloroethylene can cause symptoms such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Clumsiness

When consumed in substantial amounts — like it was by Marines and their families at Camp Lejeune — it can cause a coma or even death, as well as significant liver and kidney damage.

Scientists at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry used a data analysis experiment to learn the tetrachloroethylene contaminant concentration at Camp Lejeune. Through their investigation, they discovered that tetrachloroethylene concentrations in the water at Camp Lejeune exceeded the current EPA maximum contamination level of 5 ppb for 346 months from November 1957 to February 1987.

Other toxic substances found in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune include:

  • Benzene
  • Perchloroethylene
  • Vinyl chloride
  • Trichloroethylene

Did Camp Lejeune Officials Know the Water Was Contaminated?

United States Marine Corps officials knew that Camp Lejeune’s water was contaminated. While they might not have known the extent of damage this would cause to veterans and their families down the road, many higher-ups were aware of the presence of toxic chemicals.

According to JD Supra, the Marine Corps knew the water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated for 17 years before they started notifying veterans and their families.

The U.S. government has yet to disclose a reason for this delay.

It wasn’t until the Camp Lejeune Act of 2022 that those harmed could seek justice. This act allows those affected by the water contamination at Camp Lejeune to sue the U.S. government for their hardships.

Leav & Steinberg LLP Is Your Camp Lejeune Injury Law Firm

The issues veterans and their families face due to exposure to toxic chemicals at Camp Lejeune are criminal. These brave men and women signed up to protect their county and, in return, got debilitating diseases and other adverse neurobehavioral effects.

The team at Leav & Steinberg LLP is dedicated to helping victims receive their water contamination settlement. Whether that means a visit to our New York office or visiting our clients at their homes, we are here for you.

Contact us today to request your free consultation with a New York Camp Lejeune lawyer.