The dark secret kept hidden at Camp Lejeune for decades

Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune first opened in 1942 on the coast of North Carolina. Since then, it has been used to train Marines and house them and their families. Thousands of Marines and civilians from across the country, including here in Mississippi, have lived and worked at Camp Lejeune over the decades.

Unfortunately, what those people did not know was that the water used at the base was tainted with toxic chemicals. The base pulled its water from a nearby shallow aquifer that soon became polluted from activity on the base. For about 40 years, until Navy officials discovered the problem, camp residents drank, bathed and washed their clothes in water containing carcinogens and other dangerous toxins.

As a result, an unusually high number of former residents contracted a wide variety of deadly illnesses. Children and unborn infants seem to have been especially vulnerable. Far too many people died.

Decades of waiting for accountability

For decades, the Navy and the Department of Defense denied there was a problem, and many former Camp Lejeune residents did not find out about the tainted water until 1997. Even after that, the military and federal government refused to accept responsibility or compensate victims for their medical bills, pain and suffering and other damages. A ruling by the Supreme Court prevented litigation.

Finally, after decades of efforts by victims and loved ones, Congress included the Camp Lejeune Justice Act in a bill addressing soldiers who were sickened in chemical “burn pits” in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. For the first time, victims have a path to recovering damages.

If you believe you or your family was affected by toxic water at Camp Lejeune, you may have a limited time to act. Speaking to an attorney can help you understand the process and what to expect.