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Camp Lejeune water contamination claims continue to climb

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Nadia Ramlagan

(North Carolina News Connection) After federal legislation reduced red tape, military families who were exposed in past decades to drinking water laced with industrial solvents, benzene and other toxic chemicals at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina continue to file claims.

They have until August 2024 to do so, under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. The contamination happened from the 1950s to the 1980s.

Katie Craig, state director of the North Carolina Public Interest Research Group, said the latest Environmental Protection Agency report shows more than 600,000 pounds of chemicals were dumped into the state's waters in 2020, with more damaging consequences for public health. 

"What we're seeing is that a lot of these different chemicals have been linked to a wide range of health threats, including cancer, developmental delays and reproductive damage," Craig outlined.

Craig believes the state needs more regulation to hold polluters accountable and to ensure sure any existing regulations are fully enforced. People who want to know more about Camp Lejeune exposure and compensation can contact the Department of Veterans Affairs' Camp Lejeune Family Member program toll-free, 866-372-1144.

Craig added the most polluted watersheds include the New River, which borders Camp Lejeune, and the lower Cape Fear watershed. She pointed out the latest data do not shed light on whether the chemicals being dumped are over the legal threshold, and noted some discharges may have occurred illegally.

"North Carolinians deserve clean water, and our waterways should be safe for swimming and fishing and drinking," Craig asserted. "Our children deserve a toxic-free future as well."

Data from the EPA's Toxics Release Inventory revealed in 2020, industrial facilities released more than 193 million pounds of toxic substances into the nation's waterways.