Person collecting a water sample.

What Contaminated the Water at Camp Lejeune?

Toxic contaminants, known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), were discovered by the Marine Corps in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune in 1982. Here’s what you need to know.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), VOCs “are human-made chemicals that are used and produced in the manufacture of paints, pharmaceuticals, and refrigerants. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects.”

How do VOCs Contaminate Drinking Water?

VOCs get into the environment and pollute, or contaminate, groundwater through improper disposal methods, leaks, spills, or industrial dumping. If water wells then use this contaminated groundwater to supply local drinking water, the local individuals will be exposed to and consume these dangerous VOCs.

VOCs at Camp Lejeune

During the time of contamination, eight water-distribution plants supplied water to Camp Lejeune, two of which were contaminated with VOCs. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) found the following colorless VOCs in the water:

  • Trichloroethylene (TCE): TCE is a solvent used for cleaning metal parts.
  • Tetrachloroethylene (PCE): PCE is used for dry cleaning and metal degreasing.
  • Vinyl chloride (VC): TCE and PCE degrade in groundwater over time to VC.
  • Benzene: Benzene is used to make other chemicals to make plastics, resins, nylon, and synthetic fibers.

Camp Lejeune’s Contaminated Water Wells

Hadnot Point

Main contaminant: TCE

Additional contaminants: PCE, VC, and benzene

Contamination sources: Leaking underground storage tanks and waste disposal sites.

Tarawa Terrace

Main contaminant: PCE

Source of contamination: ABC One-Hour Cleaners, an off-base dry cleaning firm.

Who Was Exposed?

Despite the Marine Corps finding VOCs in the water in 1982, the contaminated water wells remained in use until 1985. From August 1953 to December 1987, as many as one million servicemembers, civilian employees, and family members are estimated to have been exposed to harmful levels of VOCs.

The Health Effects of VOC Consumption

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) found that the effects of VOCs varied based on individual factors such as length and amount of exposure.

ATSDR found conclusive evidence linking exposure to the VOCs found in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune to various medical conditions, including the following:

  • Cardiac Defects
  • Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Leukemias
  • Liver Cancer
  • Bladder Cancer
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Kidney Diseases

Additional medical conditions that may have resulted from exposure to the VOCs found in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune include:

  • Aplastic Anemia
  • Brain Cancer
  • Breast Cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Hepatic steatosis (Fatty Liver Disease)
  • Lung cancer
  • Miscarriage
  • Neurobehavioral effects
  • Ovarian Cancer
  • Scleroderma or Systemic Sclerosis

Related Resources

What We Know Now: Camp Lejeune

Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Attorneys

If you or your loved one served at, worked at, or lived at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and was later diagnosed with one of the medical conditions detailed above, you could be entitled to financial compensation for medical expenses and other related damages. We encourage you to reach out to our team at Mann Blake & Jackson Law to learn more about your legal right and options.

If you believe you may be eligible to file a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit, or want to learn more, call us at (855) 615-2682 or contact us online to request a free, no-obligation consultation.