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What Poisoned the Wells at Camp Lejeune?Camp Lejeune, the largest Marine Corps. Base camp in the country, has been back in the news recently, thanks to a last-minute act by former President Barack Obama. As we previously discussed, an additional $2 billion has been set aside for Marines and their family members who spent at least 30 days at Camp Lejeune between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987, and developed one of eight different conditions as a result of toxic exposure. Estimates run between 500,000 and 900,000 people who may have been exposed.

That the water wells were contaminated with deadly chemicals is no secret; the first evidence was documented in the 1980s. But it took decades before the government took any responsibility for the men, women and children who developed deadly illnesses and conditions from exposure to toxic water.

But how did the water become contaminated in the first place? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The source of the contamination was the waste disposal practices at ABC One-Hour Cleaners, an off-base dry cleaning firm.” The cleaners used tetrachloroethene (PCE) in their business; this is typical of the industry. The owners stored the solvent in a 250-gallon, above-ground storage tank, and recycled the used product. The problem is with something called still bottoms, “The residue or by-product of a distillation process such as oil refining or solvent recycling.” Instead of properly disposing of the hazardous still bottoms, the owners of ABC One-Hour Cleaners used the powders to fill in potholes on their property – almost one ton of still bottoms over the course of 30 years, as per the EPA.

The contaminants entered the soil and the groundwater, and made their way into the Tarawa Terrace Treatment Plant, which served Camp Lejeune. (The Hadnot Point Treatment Plant was also exposed to multiple contaminants from leaking underground storage tanks and waste disposal sites.)

The tests were conducted in 1985. The area was declared a Superfund site in 1989.

Help for veterans who were harmed by Camp Lejeune’s drinking water

There have been a small handful of actions taken to help veterans who developed illnesses because of toxic exposure. First, the Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 “provides cost-free health care [through the VA] for certain conditions to Veterans who served at least 30 days of active duty at Camp Lejeune from January 1, 1957 and December 31, 1987.” There are 15 conditions listed under the Act:

  1. Bladder cancer
  2. Breast cancer
  3. Esophageal cancer
  4. Female infertility
  5. Hepatic steatosis
  6. Kidney cancer
  7. Leukemia
  8. Lung cancer
  9. Miscarriage
  10. Multiple myeloma
  11. Myelodysplastic syndromes
  12. Neurobehavioral effects
  13. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  14. Renal toxicity
  15. Scleroderma

The additional disability compensation of $2 billion, set aside by President Obama, gives presumptive status to anyone suffering from one of these eight diseases (though other people may be eligible on a case-by-case basis):

  1. Adult leukemia
  2. Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
  3. Bladder cancer
  4. Kidney cancer
  5. Liver cancer
  6. Multiple myeloma
  7. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  8. Parkinson’s disease

At McGowan, Hood & Felder, LLC, we say: it’s about time these men, women and children finally saw justice. There are some decisions that are simply right, and providing extra funding to help these families is one of them – despite being long, long overdue. We hope these men and women finally get the help they so desperately need.

If you have been denied coverage by the VA, or if you have a been a victim of malpractice or negligence by VA doctors, we may be able to help. Please call 803-327-7800, or fill out our contact form. Our South Carolina injury attorneys are always ready to fight for justice.

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