Our attorneys representing victims looking to file a Camp Lejeune toxic water lawsuit from victims in all 50 states. If you were a Marine or a family member of a Marine who lived at Camp Lejeune prior to 1988, you may have a potential Camp Lejeune lawsuit if you were later diagnosed with a myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) or aplastic anemia.
On this page, our lawyers:
- provide a short overview of the water contamination lawsuits from Camp Lejeune
- examine the connection between exposure to the toxic water at Lejeune and increased rates of myelodysplastic syndromes
- explain who may be eligible to bring a Camp Lejeune myelodysplastic syndrome case
- provide settlement value estimates for Camp Lejeune cases involving myelodysplastic syndromes.
Toxic Water at USMC Base Camp Lejeune
Camp Lejeune is a large Marine Corps training facility and military base on the North Carolina coast adjacent to the town of Jacksonville, NC. Camp Lejeune opened 80 years ago and has been helping prepare Marines to defend this country ever since.
Camp Lejeune is a mini city. It has barracks, family housing, schools, and hospitals. Since the early 1950s, the resident population at Camp Lejeune has been around 54,000. Over the years that the base has been in operation, it is estimated that over 2 million marines and their family members have called Camp Lejeune home, with the average length of residence around 2 years. Lejeune has also been a workplace for thousands of civilian employees.
Just like a city, Camp Lejeune has its own potable water supply system. The Camp Lejeune water system draws groundwater from massive underground aquifers accessed by a number of large well pumps. The well pumps feed into a handful of water treatment and distribution systems that provide water to various areas of the base.
The water at Camp Lejeune not properly tested during the four decades after the base opened. The Navy looked the other way at overwhelming evidence that the water was contaminated, including the toxins the Navy put into the ground. In 1980s, however, new regulations were passed that forced the Marine Corps to perform water quality testing at Lejeune to see what Marine and their families were bathing in for all those years.
Of course, the Navy should have been doing this all along. This testing revealed the shocking truth that the Camp Lejeune water was essentially poisoned with toxic industrial chemicals knowns as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
What Chemicals Were in the Water at Camp Lejeune?
There were 2 specific chemicals that were found at dangerously high levels in the Camp Lejeune water: perchloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE). TCE and PCE belong to a group of chemicals referred to as chlorinated solvents or organic solvents, which are known to be harmful to animals and humans.
PCE is the primary chemical used in the commercial dry-cleaning industry. It is a very strong degreasing agent and solvent that removes dirt and grease from garments and fabrics. The source of the PCE contamination in the Camp Lejeune water supply has been traced back to a dry cleaning business (ABC Cleaners) that was located next to the base. Employees at ABC regularly disposed of their used dry cleaning chemicals by pouring them into the ground out back.
TCE is another strong chemical solvent, but it is too abrasive for use on textiles. TCE is most often used as a metal clean and degreaser. TCE was an active ingredient in products used by the Marine Corps to clean and maintain military weapons, equipment and ordinance. The TCE contamination in the Lejeune water is believer have originated from several sources involving improper disposal and storage on base.
Benzene and Vinyl Chloride
Two other toxic chemicals were found in the Camp Lejeune water a high levels: benzene and vinyl chloride. Vinyl chloride is a chemical that used to make plastic piping. It can also occur from the breakdown of other VOCs and organic solvents. It is highly toxic and known to be associated with various types of cancer. Benzene is a petroleum derivative that is widely used for many industrial applications. Benzene and vinyl chloride are notorious human carcinogens.
How Contaminated was the Camp Lejeune Water?
The water at Camp Lejeune had toxic chemicals levels so high that it has been described as poisonous. Camp Lejeune is considered one of the worst cases of public water contamination in U.S. history. According to the EPA and other health agencies, the maximum safe level for PCE and TCE in drinking water is 5 parts per billion (ppb). TCE levels in the Camp Lejeune water were 1,4000 and PCE levels were 215.
When Was the Camp Lejeune Water Contaminated?
The water contamination at Camp Lejeune was first uncovered in 1982, but the Marine Corps basically swept the issue under the rug for several years. The water contamination at Camp Lejeune was not actually resolved until December 1982, when the last of the contaminated systems was replaced. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) performed on-site testing and historical modeling of the Lejeune water contamination. Based on this historical mapping and modeling data, the ATSDR has estimated that the water contamination at Lejeune lasted from August 1953 to December 1987.
Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are a group of conditions that result from abnormalities in the blood generating cells in the bone marrow. Abnormal blood-forming cells in the bone marrow result in low blood cell counts. Myelodysplastic syndrome is a type of cancer.
Bone marrow is the soft tissue in the center of the bones. Bone marrow contains blood stem cells which are responsible for regenerating new red and white blood cells. With MDS, some of these blood making cells become abnormal and generate blood cells that are defective.
This leaves the person without enough normal blood cells. MDS usually causes a shortage of red blood cells (anemia), although any type of blood cells can be impacted. In some cases, MDS progresses in to acute myeloid leukemia (AML), an aggressive type of bone marrow cancer. MDS was previously referred to as pre-leukemia or smoldering leukemia, but it is now considered to be a type of cancer.
There are six types of MDS:
- MDS with multilineage dysplasia (MDS-MLD)
- MDS with single lineage dysplasia (MDS-SLD)
- MDS with ring sideroblasts (MDS-RS)
- MDS with excess blasts (MDS-EB)
- MDS with isolated del(5q)
- MDS, unclassifiable (MDS-U)
Evidence Linking Camp Lejeune Toxic Water to Colon Cancer
The ATSDR and several other health agencies have conducted extensive studies have to assess the health impact of the water contamination at Camp Lejeune on base residents and employees. Epidemiological studies have also been done on occupational exposure to the chemicals in the Lejeune water (PCE and TCE) and various types of cancers. Both the Camp Lejeune studies and the occupational exposure studies have found a clear connection between blood cancers such as myelodysplastic syndrome and the chemicals in the water at Camp Lejeune.
The ATSDR examined the health histories and records for thousands of residents and employees from Camp Lejeune during the relevant time frame. This data was then compared to similar medical information from a control group of employees and residents from another Marine Corps base (Camp Pendleton, CA) where the water was never contaminated.
The ATSDR Study based on this data found that the Camp Lejeune cohort exhibited of blood cancers such as aplastic anemia and myelodysplastic syndrome compared to the Camp Pendleton control group. The ATSDR data also displayed a correlation between individual exposure levels and disease rates. Those with the most exposure to the contaminated Lejeune water had the highest rates of blood cancers.
Who is Eligible to File a Camp Lejeune Myelodysplastic Syndrome Lawsuit?
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) is a new federal law that gives any individual who worked or lived at Camp Lejeune for at least 1 month between 1953 and 1987 the right to bring a civil lawsuit against the government for harm caused by the toxic water at Lejeune.
Anyone who can prove that they meet this residence or employment eligibility criteria and prove that they were subsequently diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome or a related blood cancer will be able to bring a case.
Settlement Amounts for Myelodysplastic Syndrome Lawsuits from Camp Lejeune
Our lawyers estimate that a successful Camp Lejeune lawsuit involving myelodysplastic syndrome could have average settlement payout of around $75,000 and $210,000. This is on the lower end of the CLJA settlement estimate range. The reason is that myelodysplastic syndrome or MDS is not an aggressive form of cancer. Until recently, MDS was not even considered to be a cancer by the medical community.
This does not mean that all MDS cases will have a low settlement value. There are various circumstances in which a Camp Lejeune MDS case could have a much higher settlement value. For instance, if the MDS caused low blood cell levels which triggered some other health complication resulting in serious injury, that case would have a much higher value.
Example Camp Lejeune MDS Lawsuit
One example myelodysplastic syndrome lawsuit from Camp Lejeune is Manns v. United States (7:22-cv-136). These were lawsuits that had been previously filed and eventually dismissed in 2016 based on the North Carolina statute of repose. So they were eligible for immediate filing because they had already gone through the six-month admin claim process before filing the first time.
The Manns lawsuit adopts the bare bones pleading style, so it does not contain many specific factual allegations. The Complaint simply alleges that Manns “resided, worked, or was otherwise exposed for not less than thirty (30) days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987, to water at Camp Lejeune[.]” Sometime after his exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, Manns was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome and anemia.
Both of these diseases have been linked to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune. In fact, aplastic anemia/myelodysplastic syndrome is listed as one of the diseases that the VA considers to be “presumptively related” to the Lejeune water contamination. The Complaint asserts a cause of action under the CLJA and alleges that there is a causal link between Manns’ illnesses and the chemicals in the Lejeune water and “the causal relationships is at least as likely as not.”
Causation in Anemia/MDS Cases
Proving causation in the Manns case should be relatively easy, assuming his length of exposure is not minimal. The injuries alleged by Mann (anemia and myelodysplastic syndrome) are what Camp Lejeune lawyers refer to as “top tier” injuries because the VA has classified them as presumptively connected to Camp Lejeune. This means there is compelling scientific evidence of causation and given the VA classification it would be difficult for the government to dispute that.
Manns would have a good case for causation even under the traditional “more likely than not” evidentiary standard because his injuries are not overly common (e.g., breast cancer) or something closely associated with other intervening causes (e.g., lung cancer from smoking). Under softer “equipoise” causation standard adopted by the CLJA, proving this element should be even easier.
Contact Us About a Camp Lejeune Myelodysplastic Syndrome Case
If you lived or worked at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 and you were later diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome from toxic water, call us today at 800-553-8082 to see if you have a case. You can also get a free, no-obligation case review online.