What happened at Camp Lejeune?
Camp Lejeune, a military training facility, opened in 1942 and housed more than a million men, women, and children during its course of operation. At one point, Camp Lejeune was a solid base for the Marines, acting as one of the Marine Corp’s busiest and largest bases. Stretched along the coastline of North Carolina, Camp Lejeune covered 156,000 acres of Jacksonville.
For over 34 years, toxic agents seeped into the soil at base junkyards, fuel depots, and a local dry cleaner. Records show that the Marines dumped oil and industrial wastewater in storm drains while burying potentially radioactive materials on the site. To make matters worse, Camp Lejeune maintained a daycare center in a former malaria control shop where pesticides were mixed and stored.
Above all else, the most significant source of water contamination was a neighboring dry-cleaning business that dumped wastewater into drains tainted with chemicals used in dry cleaning. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, or ATSDR, these chemicals were introduced into the water supply at 440 times the levels that are considered to be safe.
After decades of known water pollution, it was not until 1982 that the American government admitted that volatile organic compounds were found in the drinking water in residential areas and training facilities. They recognized that from 1953 to 1987, service members and their families drank, cooked, bathed, and swam in water contaminated with dangerously high levels of cancer-causing chemicals.