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Feb-25-2010 15:27printcomments

Marine Corps and Navy Can be Sued Over Camp Lejeune's Dangerous Water

Drinking water "shall not contain impurities which may be hazardous to the health of consumers." - Marine regulations from December 1972

The Marine Corps Memorial
The Marine Corps Memorial

(SALEM, Ore.) - A woman who lived aboard Camp Lejeune in the early 1980's has been permitted to move forward with a claim against the U.S. Marine Corps over the water contamination on this military reservation. Laura J. Jones of Iowa, says drinking the water led to her developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Sources report that this is the first time that a former resident of Camp Lejeune has been allowed to move ahead with a claim against the Marine Corps.

If Jones' case finds success, it will likely open the floodgates of similar claims. Marines are still blocked from suing the federal government over the Ferres Doctrine.

The change is coming about because the U.S. Department of the Navy, which oversees the Marines, was told it cannot dismiss the case. Laura Jones was the wife of a Marine officer, she lived at Camp Lejeune from 1980 to 1983. Her lymphoma was diagnosed in 2005.

The idea of Camp Lejeune water being dangerous and deadly is nothing new. Former Marine Jerry Ensminger lost his little girl, Janey, to cancer that is connected to Lejeune. His tireless efforts and those of others, have kept a level of pressure on the government that they probably never expected[1].

We reported four days ago that officials with the Marine Corps fudged the numbers over Benzene concentration in a base well near a fuel farm. Benzene is a result of fuel leaching into the groundwater[2].

But Benzene is only one deadly carcinogen in the groundwater at Camp Lejeune that base officials, the Marine Corps and the Dept. of the Navy itself has tried in vain to keep under wraps.

Like the Marine Corps Air Station at El Toro in Southern California which is now closed, Lejeune is contaminated with PCE (perchloroethylene) and TCE (trichloroethylene) - both cancer causing chemicals that were dumped into the soil after being used to clean everything ranging from weapons to aircraft.

We have written extensively about the problems at El Toro and Camp Lejeune, there is a great amount of material in our archives[3].

In her federal court claim, Jones described how she had not known about the years of contamination at the North Carolina base. McClatchy Newspapers wrote today that Jones accused the military of "reckless" behavior in allowing families to drink the toxic water without so much as a warning about the contamination.

In their last ditch attempt to duck responsibility, the U.S. Navy claimed at U.S. District Court in Raleigh that Jones basically missed her window of opportunity; because she filed the civil lawsuit after the statute of limitations had expired. Terrence Boyle is the U.S. District Judge who rejected the Navy's arguments.

The Navy also said regulations at the time didn't cover contaminants like trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, vinyl chloride and benzene.

Boyle pointed to federal Marine regulations from December 1972, clearly stating that drinking water "shall not contain impurities which may be hazardous to the health of consumers."

This rule, the Marine Corps and Navy did not follow.

We know that in the mid-1970's, the manufacturer of TCE, Dow Chemical, was sued in the wrongful death of a janitor who died after using TCE for six weeks to clean gum stains from supermarket floors. The Forensic Toxicologist who testified and essentially helped convict Dow, is our own writer Dr. Phil Leveque in Oregon. He says everyone at Dow Chemical, the Department of Defense, the Navy and Marines, knew about the dangers of TCE in particular, but never chose to alert those who actually used the chemical, such as the Marines on the ground.

And yet the Navy and Marine Corps still contend that the Marine Corps shouldn't be liable for the horrible diseases and deaths that have taken place because of their own blatant failure to act responsibly, and with honor.

In fact, Judge Boyle did say it was the Navy's job to educate residents about the contamination, and the failure to do that led to Jones' ignorance about the contamination. He also talked about how the military didn't even begin seeking victims in earnest, until after Jones' diagnosis.

Boyle was quoted by McClatchy saying, "The Department of the Navy's unwillingness to release information regarding contamination at Camp Lejeune or to provide notice to former residents remains relevant in that such conduct limited the information available to potential clients."

This is a big day for Americans, Marines in particular, but all who served or worked aboard or even near a military base that maintained poor environmental standards.

The attorney representing Jones is Joseph L. Anderson, a Winston-Salem lawyer. Anderson says he is hearing from thousands at this time about the Camp Lejeune case. For those who write to asking for direction on seeking legal assistance in this matter, you now know who is successfully representing this matter.

Anderson, "We're grateful for the judge's decision and for the opportunity to represent these families."

The McClatchy article states that the federal government still has an option to appeal Boyle's decision in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

[1] The Few The Proud The Forgotten

[2] Feb-21-2010: Pressure Building Over Excessive Benzene Contamination at Camp Lejeune Marine Base - Tim King

[3] Marine Corps articles

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