What Caused The Toxic Water At Camp Lejeune?
Written by Christopher J. Brochu
Opened in 1941 in Jacksonville, NC, Camp Lejeune was used as a training facility for the Marine Corps during World War II. As the facility grew, so did the need for additional resources such as consumable water. Over the years, the base installed a total of eight water wells to provide drinking, cooking, and cleaning water for veterans, families, spouses, children, and civilian workers. However, in the 1950’s it was discovered that two wells (Tarawa Terrace & Hadnot Point) contained high levels of Volatile Organic Compounds, commonly known as VOCs. The wells at Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point were used for water consumption by military families in enlisted-family housing, barracks for unmarried service personnel, base administrative offices, schools, recreational areas, and at the Camp Lejeune base hospital.
The VOCs found in the toxic water include:
- Benzene– an organic compound found in industrial chemicals. Extended exposure has been linked to cancer, and more notably acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
- Tetrachloroethylene (PCE or PERC)– an industrial chemical used in a variety of applications including dry cleaning fabrics and degreasing heavy machinery
- Trichloroethylene (TCE)– a chemical used as a degreaser on heavy machinery. It has been linked to cancers, lymphoma, and cardiac issues.
- Perchloroethylene (PCE)– a chemical used commonly as a cleaning agent. It has been known to cause many types of cancers, diseases, and birth defects.
- Vinyl Chloride– a colorless gas used in the production of plastics. Heavy exposure has been linked to myeloma and a variety of cancers.
The source of the VOCs in Camp Lejeune’s water is attributed to several known causes and sources:
ABC One-Hour Cleaners
ABC One-Hour Cleaners was an off-base dry cleaning facility located near the Tarawa Terrace well. Investigators determined that this dry-cleaning facility was the source of Perchloroethylene (PCE), the main toxin of the Tarawa Terrace well water. Even the groundwater became contaminated with PCE as a result of spills and improper disposal of the chemicals used in the dry-cleaning process. Contamination of the Tarawa Terrace well is estimated to have started in 1953, when ABC One-Hour Cleaners first opened.
Spills & Underground Storage Tank Leaks
The primary contaminant in the Hadnot Point well (although also found in the Tarawa Terrace well) is a toxin known as Trichloroethylene (TCE). This industrial chemical is used as a degreaser on heavy equipment. While difficult to trace the exact source of the TCE, it is likely that it came from many sources, including on-base industrial spills and leaks from underground storage containers. The Hadnot Point well began operation in 1943; however, even today it is still unclear when the water contamination started.
In summary, the toxic water at Camp Lejeune is a result of negligent handling and oversight of toxic chemical disposal. Specifically, negligence in handling chemicals that contained VOCs was being disposed of in and around the base without caution or care. It is estimated that over one million veterans, family members, and workers may have been exposed to toxic water at Camp Lejeune.
If you or a loved one (both living, deceased, divorced, estranged, stepchild, or adopted) are suffering from cancer, illness, or disease related to Camp Lejeune toxic water, you may be eligible for compensation. Reach out to us today for a free consultation.
Brochu Law, PLLC represents Camp Lejeune cases on a contingency fee basis. There is no fee unless you win. We advance all costs on behalf of military families and consumers.
Brochu Law, PLLC represents military families and consumers nationwide*
*Disclaimer –Christopher J. Brochu, Esq. is licensed to practice law in the State of Florida. Brochu Law, PLLC works with co-counsel in accordance with state and federal law.
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