On January 10, 2022, CBSNews.com published an online news article reporting that a group of bipartisan lawmakers has submitted new legislation designed to help thousands of military service members and their families obtain justice in the courts for the harm they received after consuming and using contaminated water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
The United States government concedes that for approximately 35 years, service members and the families of service members who worked at and who lived in base housing at Camp Lejeune were exposed to hazardous chemicals while swimming, showering, bathing, drinking, and cooking with water that was contaminated with toxic, cancer-causing chemicals. The groundwater contamination issue was finally resolved in 1987.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the department now covers medical treatment and expenses for those who have developed Parkinson’s disease, kidney cancer, liver cancer, leukemia, and several other toxic water-related diseases and cancers. However, Catherine Herridge with CBS News states that she has interviewed families who are still pursuing legal justice and fighting to present their cases in court.
According to U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who is a member of the bipartisan group who drafted the new bill, is urging the Department of Defense to perform a comprehensive review. Senator Blumenthal stated that the Pentagon should conduct a national audit of all its bases to determine where there is or was contamination and how to prevent it in the future.
A retired military drill instructor, Jerry Ensminger, told CBS News that a row of infant graves is in the corner of a North Carolina cemetery called “baby heaven.” Mr. Ensminger was one of the first people to blame the drinking water at Camp Lejeune for the infant deaths and other harm caused to service members and their families who were stationed at the base from 1953 to 1987. He stated that the dates of the infant deaths occurred during the time of the water contamination. In 1982, his six-year-old daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. She tragically passed away at age nine.
According to the news report, those serving at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 were likely to have been exposed to toxic, contaminated groundwater water. The report alleges that poisonous chemicals leached into the ground and poisoned the groundwater at base junkyards, a dry cleaner, and fuel depots for many years. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry reported that some parts of the military base produced test results showing the chemicals were 400 times higher than the safety standards permitted.
Today, the base’s groundwater is tested daily. However, 40 years ago, the Tarawa Terrace base housing neighborhood water was unsafe. This was the neighborhood Mr. Ensminger and several other victims say they lived. One victim stated to CBS News that her family has no medical history of breast cancer. However, her mother tragically passed away from breast cancer at age 43. She also says that she struggles with reproductive issues and chronic anemia.
Senators Blumenthal, Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Gary Peters (D-Mich), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) created the Camp Lejeune Justice Act that is designed to address the unfair legal barriers that prevent military families from filing lawsuits against the government. According to the U.S. Senators, the time deadlines on these claims passed because the United States government suppressed the issue.
Senator Blumenthal states that tens of thousands of veterans and their family members have “very legitimate, serious claims for injuries” that they sustained due to the water contamination at Camp Lejeune. He said that the injuries include several types of cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
A senior Defense Department official told CBS News they are running hundreds of investigations to make sure the water is safe at military bases, and they are committed to more transparency in the future about their findings and the actions they take.
Did you or a loved one work at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987?
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