Veterans, their loved ones, and civilians who spent time at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina have been struggling for decades with severe medical conditions from contaminated water. Illnesses range from Parkinson’s disease to kidney failure, several forms of cancer, miscarriages and birth defects.
The water contamination came from two of the base’s water treatment plants between 1953 and 1987. Toxins found in the Camp Lejeune water included volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), vinyl chloride and benzene. Learn more about when and where the water contamination at Camp Lejeune occurred through our comprehensive Camp Lejeune timeline.
Timeline of Camp Lejeune Water Crisis
1941: Construction of Camp Lejeune, named in honor of the 13th Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, John A. Lejeune, begins in Onslow County, North Carolina. It includes the early housing development, Hadnot Point, and the Hadnot Point water system. The Hadnot Point water system is the first of two water systems on the base recognized as causing the Camp Lejeune water contamination disaster.
1952: The housing development, Tarawa Terrace, begins operations, including its water treatment system, the second of the two systems that became contaminated.
1953: This is the year Hadnot Point’s drinking water system was affected by toxic chemicals. The contamination primarily resulted from leaking underground storage tanks as well as oil and other waste disposed of improperly, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).
1957: According to ATSDR, the Tarawa Terrace water treatment system is contaminated by toxins from the neighboring business ABC One-Hour Cleaners.
1972: Another water treatment system, the Holcomb Boulevard Water System, begins operations, and because Hadnot Point supplied Holcomb Boulevard intermittently, people in these areas may have suffered exposure to toxins.
1979-1980: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) releases its standards for THMs, a by-product of drinking water disinfection, and also recommended drinking water levels for TCE, a solvent used in the dry cleaning industry.
1982-1984: The Navy begins an environmental cleanup program at Camp Lejeune and as part of the effort, water wells near the known contaminated sites were tested.
1985-1987: The U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) moves forward with the time-consuming process of removing contaminated wells from service. The process takes more than two years to complete (therefore Dec. 31, 1987, ends the eligibility period under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act for people to be eligible to file a lawsuit).
1989: The EPA names Camp Lejeune and ABC One-Hour Cleaners as Superfund Sites.
1991: The ATSDR begins a multi-year look at the risk to children whose mothers were exposed to contaminated water during pregnancy at Camp Lejeune.
1998 The ATSDR study on the health of children (children born between 1968-1985 whose mothers drank the contaminated water) is published with the overall consensus being more investigations into exposure are necessary.
1999-2002: ATSDR conducts a telephone survey designed to identify selected birth defects and childhood cancers in children affected by the Camp Lejeune water. Many of the respondents are learning for the first time that they could be a victim of Camp Lejeune water contamination.
2003: ATSDR completes its childhood cancer and birth defect survey of children who had been exposed to the contaminated water, finding 106 children had specific birth defects and cancers.
2004: The Commandant of the Marine Corps forms a panel to look into the handling and the decision-making concerning the toxic water at Camp Lejeune (The panel determined that “the Marine Corps acted responsibly.’’).
2007: The USMC launches a notification and registration campaign for former residents to sign up for more information about water contamination by telephone or internet.
2008: President George W. Bush signs the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act requiring the Department of the Navy to conduct a health survey of people exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.
2009: An Iowa woman becomes the first person to file a lawsuit against the United States government over Camp Lejeune’s water contamination. Laura Jones, a wife of a former marine lived at Camp Lejeune from 1980 to 1983. Her lawsuit alleges the exposure to the toxins led her to be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
2012: President Barack Obama signs the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act (Janey Ensminger Act) making it possible for military service members impacted by the water contamination to more easily receive health care through the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). Any veteran who served on active duty at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between January 1, 1957, and December 31, 1987, and their family members, could receive medical services if they suffered from any of 15 listed cancers and other illnesses or conditions.
The illnesses were: esophageal cancer, breast cancer, kidney cancer, multiple myeloma, renal toxicity, female infertility, scleroderma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, lung cancer, bladder cancer, leukemia, myelodysplastic syndromes, hepatic steatosis, miscarriage and neurobehavioral effects.
2017: An additional $2 billion is made available to veterans, reservists, and National Guard members who were impacted by the water contamination. To receive the disability assistance, the individual has to be suffering from one of eight diseases including kidney cancer, liver cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, adult leukemia, multiple myeloma, Parkinson’s disease, aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes or bladder cancer.
2021: The Camp Lejeune Justice Act is introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and allows certain individuals to sue and recover damages for harm from exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.
2022: As part of the Honoring Our PACT Act 2022 (PACT Act), the Camp Lejeune Justice Act is approved on August 2, 2022. With the passing of this legislation, veterans, their families and civilians who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune from 1953 and 1987 for 30 or more days and developed certain health conditions are now able to file Camp Lejeune lawsuits for financial compensation for lost wages, medical costs, and pain and suffering. Those who had loved ones die as a result of an illness linked to the toxins in Camp Lejeune’s water may also be able to file a lawsuit.