Bill to Help Some Camp Lejeune Toxic Water Victims Reintroduced in U.S. Congress

A proposed new law that would be a huge help to some – but not all – alleged victims of <"">toxic water at Camp Lejeune has been reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. Among other things, the federal legislation would allow veterans and family members whose health was endangered by Camp Lejeune’s tainted water to receive health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

As we’ve reported in the past, many scientists have called the drinking water contamination at Camp Lejeune the worst in the nation’s history. From the mid-1950s to the mid-1980s, an estimated 1 million people were exposed to water that was poisoned by benzene, trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and vinyl chloride, which the Department of the Navy eventually blamed on an off base dry cleaner.

Recently, lawsuits involving toxic water at Camp Lejeune were consolidated in a multidistrict litigation and transferred to the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia. These lawsuits allege that the U.S. government knowingly exposed hundreds of thousands of Marines, sailors, their family members, and civilian employees to highly contaminated drinking water, and at the same time actively disseminated disinformation to victims in an effort to minimize the significance of the exposure.

This is actually the second time this legislation has been introduced in the House. The bill, if it becomes law, would create a presumptive link between contaminated drinking water and certain diseases that have plagued veterans and their families who lived there from the mid-1950s to the mid-1980s. The bill, called the Janey Ensminger Act in honor of a 9-year-old girl who died of childhood leukemia believed to have been caused by the Camp Lejeune water, never made it out of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs the first time it was introduced.

The reintroduced bill is now pending in the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. A similar bill, the Caring for Camp Lejeune Veterans Act of 2011, was introduced in February and is in the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

While the bill is well intentioned and certainly would be a boon to many victims of Camp Lejeune’s poisoned water, the legislation does not provide for civilians who worked at the base during the period of contamination.

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