What Are Your Rights: Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Bill

Recorded on July 6, 2022

Marine Corps base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina is known to have had contaminated water linked to adverse health effects including cancer. Now, the President is expected to sign into law a new bill that would allow those who suffered injuries to file a claim. What does this mean for veterans and their families who were stationed at the base? Managing partner Paul Harding of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti is on CBS6 to help explain this issue.

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Interviewer: Well, the Marine Corps base, Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, is known to have had contaminated water that made people sick over the years. Now, the President is expected to sign into law a new mandate that would allow those people who got sick to file a claim. For our weekly “What Are Your Rights?” segment, what does this mean for veterans who were stationed at the base?

Can you tell me a little bit about it and what prompted the government to pass this new law?

Paul: So, over the years there’s been tens of thousands of veterans who’ve gone through Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. In early ’80s, they sort of figured out that the water was bad, that people were getting sick and they were getting sick in very bad ways. So what prompted it? Well, just year after year of these stories coming out and these medical coming out, they finally passed the law that’s gonna give some justice to the veterans.

Interviewer: And when you say sick, how sick are we talking? What were these people coming down with?

Paul: So basically, if you were there from anytime 1953 to 1982…that’s not true, 1987 actually, big swath of time. If you were there for at least 30 days, and you had any of the enumerated illnesses that they talk about, which primarily are cancers, we’re talking about kidney cancer, we’re talking about lung cancer, breast cancer, and the leukemias. But those are the things that people were getting. Again, it was taking years for that to happen. So the information trail was a little bit slower. But they did recognize that clearly, it came from the water, Camp Lejeune, you know, which everyone knows has always been kind of this sort of fear factor.

Interviewer: Yeah. And so now, who are the eligible people that can be a part of all this?

Paul: Yeah. So, if you were at Camp Lejeune during that time period, 1953 to 1987, you were there for at least 30 days, you could be in the military, you could be a family member, then you qualify if you end up with one of these illnesses. So what they’ve found here is that they’re gonna kind of be going through getting phone calls from, you know, family members, many of which are already deceased, and trying to figure out the timeframes they were there, and the cancers that they ended up getting,

Interviewer: If they do think they were there at this time and got sick, how do they now go about being a part of all this?

Paul: So, you know, what we’re doing… In fact, you know, in our office, when people call and the families call, we’re just educating them, letting them know what the legislation is, the legislation passed the House, it passed the Senate, currently on President Biden’s desk, which we expect to have a signature any day. But we’re letting them know what the process is, what they’re gonna need to accumulate. They’re gonna need to get some records and some of the stuff, and whether or not they do qualify. Yeah. So I guess it’s a time to gather information, get information, and decide if it’s a path that they wanna go down.

Interviewer: Right. And how long do they have now to do this and get on board?

Paul: Yeah. So, there’s gonna be a two-year statute of limitation. So it’s gonna be a two-year cutoff from the date that President Biden signs the legislation. And again, we really think that’s gonna happen virtually any day.

Interviewer: Has your office been getting calls about this already?

Paul: So, we’ve been getting calls over the past several weeks, and in the last week or two it sort of intensified. So, you know, we have gone ahead and we sort of have a designated group of people that are kind of educating people as to the process and gonna help them, you know, get through this part of the claim.

Interviewer: And tell me what could these people get out of this?

Paul: So, you know, result’s gonna be money damages, right? There’s gonna be money for past losses, there may be money for future monitoring. So if you were there and now you’re going, “Oh no, what’s my future gonna be like?” And you don’t have access to a medical plan, you know, it’s gonna be some ability to do that. But ultimately, basically what it did is open up the door for a damage claim, which before this was virtually closed.

Interviewer: Yeah. Is there anything else that I missed that you wanna touch on and let people at home know about?

Paul: Well, just to let people know, you know, that you may just know somebody who was at Camp Lejeune, and you may know someone who died of a cancer. Any cancer would be a good starting point. And people just aren’t gonna hear about this. You know, this isn’t gonna be a major news blast around the country. It’s gonna be a one-day and kind of fade. So, you know, letting people who served our country know that they may have some rights, and that they were violated just simply by attending and drinking the water and bathing in the water at Camp Lejeune, that there is gonna be some sense of justice.

Interviewer: Well, for more info covered in our weekly “What Are Your Rights?” segments, or to send us a story idea, just head to our website, cbs6albany.com.

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