By Peter Chawaga
Following Congressional approval of a bill to compensate veterans sickened by drinking water contamination at North Carolina’s Marine base Camp Lejeune, victims are now preparing to seek one of the largest legal settlements in U.S. history.
“Hundreds of thousands of veterans and their relatives exposed to cancer-causing drinking water on the North Carolina Marine base are expected to file claims,” Bloomberg Law reported. “The bill lawmakers passed last summer acknowledged the government’s culpability and had an estimated price tag of $6.1 billion. The Congressional Budget Office says that total could balloon in later years by another $15 billion.”
The issues with Camp Lejeune’s water date back decades, with some speculating that chemicals leaking from a dry-cleaning operation nearby were originally to blame. Service members and their families were exposed to the dangerous effluent for more than three decades, and the recent Congressional act gave anyone who spent more than 30 days on the base between 1953 and 1987 the chance to file a civil claim. As a result, law firm advertisements offering to represent victims have proliferated.
“Law firms and legal marketing agencies spent more than $145 million on advertising last year in a bid to recruit them,” according to Bloomberg Law.
But despite the federal clearance and eagerness of legal representatives, victim health claims have been slow to resolve.
“Even though Congress passed a law last August giving Camp Lejeune victims two years to sue for damages in federal court, the process of compensating the thousands of people affected by the contamination is moving at a snail’s pace,” according to Roll Call. “The Navy and Marine Corps, which have denied responsibility for causing health problems at the base since the contamination was first discovered in 1982, have taken no action on about 20,000 damage claims filed with the Navy Judge Advocate General after the legislation was signed into law.”
As the claims pile up and legal firms continue to push toward resolution per the Congressional approval, it’s clear that this decades-long saga over one of the most shocking drinking water contamination issues in American history is far from over.
“Here we are six-plus months since the bill was passed and to my knowledge not one claim has been settled, not one offer has been made,” Mike Partaine, a man who was born at Camp Lejeune and has since been diagnosed with breast cancer, told Roll Call. “Why is it taking so long? That’s what the community has been saying too.”
To read more about how water systems address harmful chemicals, visit Water Online’s Drinking Water Contaminant Removal Solutions Center.