Questions and Answers


History of Discovery
Chemicals and Exposure
Health and Medical
Notification and Outreach

History of Discovery

Q: When and how were the chemicals in drinking water discovered and addressed? Were there drinking water regulations for these chemicals at the time?

A: In the early 1980s, Camp Lejeune began to test drinking water for trihalomethanes (THMs) because of new regulations that had been announced by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for those chemicals. THMs are chemicals that are created when water is treated with chlorine. While these initial tests for THMs were being conducted, other chemicals, unidentified at the time, were sometimes interfering with the results.

Through special testing of the drinking water system in 1982, the chemicals causing the interference with THM testing were identified as trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE). The test results varied between drinking water samples collected at different times. Base officials were unable to immediately identify the source of the chemicals.

Beginning in 1984, as part of the environmental cleanup program, some drinking water wells were tested near potential former disposal sites. Benzene, a volatile organic compound (VOC), was found in one of the wells serving the Hadnot Point water system. When Base officials were notified of the result, the well was taken out of service on the same day it was found to be affected, and a more comprehensive well testing effort began. When this testing identified VOCs in specific drinking water wells, the affected wells were removed from service. There were no drinking water regulations established for these chemicals at that time.

Base investigative actions revealed leaking storage tanks, industrial activities, and one off-Base dry cleaner were the sources of the contamination. Subsequent analysis found that the normal rotation of the wells and geological factors likely caused the variation of chemical levels in the drinking water. Detailed information may be found in tables published in reports by the ATSDR and the NAS/NRC (For more technical details, see the ATSDR’s website at and Contaminated Water Supplies at Camp Lejeune [NAS/NRC, 2009] at

There were no drinking water regulations established for these chemicals at the time, which further complicated the Base’s efforts. Federal regulations for TCE, benzene, and vinyl chloride were published in the Federal Register in 1987 and standards became effective and enforceable in 1989; Federal regulations for PCE were published in the Federal Register in 1991 and standards became effective and enforceable in 1992.

Q: How did the chemicals get into the drinking water?

A: These chemicals got into the drinking water through wells that pumped groundwater into the drinking water systems for Camp Lejeune. The water from some of the wells was affected by past on-Base industrial, chemical disposal activities, and leaking storage tanks, as well as disposal practices of an off-Base dry cleaner.

Standard practices in the United States for industrial activities, waste management, and disposal were much different in the past than they are today. In the early 1980s, standards and regulations were put in-place for the treatment and disposal of solvents and other chemicals. Camp Lejeune drinking water currently meets all government drinking water standards and testing is performed more often than is required.

Chemicals and Exposure

Q: Is the water at Camp Lejeune currently safe to drink?

A: The drinking water at Camp Lejeune currently meets all government drinking water standards, and is tested more often than required. For Camp Lejeune’s annual water quality reports, please see:

Q: What efforts are currently in place to ensure the safety of the water?

A: Current efforts to ensure water safety fall into three categories: water quality testing, compliance with current waste management regulations, and cleanup of past hazardous waste sites. Water quality testing efforts, including those covered under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and those that are voluntary, are described in the Camp Lejeune drinking water sampling material at

Many environmental regulations intended to change past industrial practices in the United States that contributed to many of the environmental impacts we face today were promulgated in the early to mid-1970s. Most notable is the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1976. One of the main objectives of RCRA was/is to protect human health and the environment from the potential hazards of waste disposal. Camp Lejeune follows RCRA, as well as many other Federal and State regulations, to help prevent any future groundwater contamination. Regarding the cleanup of past hazardous waste sites, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) authorized Federal action to respond to releases of hazardous substances into the environment. These cleanup efforts protect current drinking water by addressing potential sources of contamination and preventing the migration of contaminants into drinking water supplies. Camp Lejeune has an active program in compliance with CERCLA to address past hazardous waste sites and address groundwater contamination before it impacts drinking water.

Q: What chemicals were detected in the drinking water wells during testing in 1984-1985?

A: The chemicals detected in the drinking water were a class of chemicals known as “volatile organic compounds.” These chemicals were commonly used as solvents for cleaning machinery and weapons, for dry cleaning, and some are found in fuels. These chemicals include:

  • Trichloroethylene (TCE), primarily used as a metal cleaner (i.e., for cleaning weapons, engine parts, and machinery);
  • Tetrachloroethylene (also known as PCE, perc, or perchloroethylene), primarily used in dry cleaning;
  • Benzene and toluene, chemicals found in gasoline and other fuels;
  • Vinyl chloride, 1,2-dichloroethylene, and 1,1-dichloroethylene, breakdown products of TCE and PCE; and
  • Methylene chloride, a chemical solvent used in laboratories and in removing paint.

Q. What amounts of the chemicals were in the drinking water?

A: We can’t be certain. The lack of historic data creates uncertainties with accurately estimating levels of the chemicals in the water that occurred decades ago. ATSDR has completed water modeling studies to estimate the level of chemicals in drinking water at Camp Lejeune. Detailed information may be found in tables published in reports by ATSDR and the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council (NAS/NRC) which can be viewed at either or

Q: Who may have been exposed?

A: Best estimates from ATSDR’s water modeling efforts indicate that some of the Base’s water was affected by chemicals as early as 1953 until as late as 1987.

Health and Medical

Q: Could my health condition be related to chemicals in the drinking water?

A: We do not know if past exposure to these chemicals in Camp Lejeune’s drinking water caused adverse health effects in specific individuals. We continue to work with leading scientific organizations in an effort to provide comprehensive science-based answers to the health questions that have been raised. Information about completed, and ongoing, ATSDR studies can be found by visiting:

According to the ATSDR, “Exposure to the drinking water contaminants trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), vinyl chloride, benzene, and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found at Camp Lejeune have been linked with some types of cancer, birth defects, and other health problems. Still, even if you were exposed, ATSDR cannot confirm that these health problems are a result of that exposure.” (

The amount of harm the chemicals may cause is related to several factors:

  • When a person is exposed (e.g., as an adult, during pregnancy, as a child);
  • How much a person is exposed to (e.g., the amount of chemicals in the water and how much you drank or used);
  • How long a person is exposed;
  • How a person is exposed (e.g., breathing, drinking); and
  • What a person’s personal traits and habits are.

Q: What should I do about any medical condition I may have or suspect I have?

A: We encourage you to contact your family physician regarding any concerns you may have about your health or your family’s health. To receive updated information, please sign up on our Notification Database by either calling the Call Center or visiting

Q: Are there health benefits that may be available to me?

A: On August 6, 2012, President Barack Obama signed into law the "Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012." Veterans and family members who served on active duty or resided at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more between January 1, 1957 and December 31, 1987 may be eligible for medical care for 15 health conditions.

The Department of Veterans Affairs finalized a new rule on January 13, 2017 to consider eight diseases as presumptive for service connection. The presumptive service connection provides Veterans Affairs disability benefits to veterans who have one of eight diseases and served for no less than 30 days (consecutive or nonconsecutive) on permanent or temporary duty at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987. To learn more about the health care benefits, please visit

Q: Where can I file a claim with the government for an illness that I believe is potentially related to the past drinking water at Camp Lejeune?

A: Former Service Members: Claims by former service members may be filed with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). For more information, please see: (Apply online) or call (1-877-222-8387)

Family Members: By law, VA may only compensate for eligible out-of-pocket expenses (after March 2013, when the law was funded by Congress) after family members have received payment from all other health plans. For more information, apply online at or call toll-free 1-866-372-1144.

Civilian Employees: Claims by civilian employees may be filed with the Department of Labor’s (DoL) Office of Workers Compensation Program. For more information, please see: or call 1-866-487-2365.

Family Members and Other Persons’ Legal Claims: Claims for personal injury or wrongful death may be filed through a process established by the United States Congress under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The claims packet from the Department of the Navy can be accessed at: or call 202-685-4600.

Notification and Outreach

Q: When did the Marine Corps notify people about the drinking water problem?

A: Our outreach efforts began in 1984 following the discovery of chemicals in the drinking water wells. The Base newspaper ran an article in December 1984. In May 1985, the Marine Corps held a press event which resulted in multiple articles in local newspapers. In 2000-2001, we helped recruit participants for a health study being conducted by the ATSDR through an extensive notification effort through the media and military messages. Today, we continue to engage in community outreach and world-wide notification activities through press releases, public notices in newspapers and magazines, website announcements and direct mailings. We have established a drinking water Notification Database that now includes over 250,000 individuals. For the most current registrant count, visit

Q: How can I register to receive updated information?

A: Register at or through the toll-free Call Center at (877) 261-9782.

Q: How do I update my contact information?

A: Please contact the toll-free Call Center at (877) 261-9782 and they will update your contact information, or go to the front page of our website:

Join the Notification
Database Today

The Marine Corps encourages
all those who lived or worked
at Camp Lejeune in 1987 or
before to register to receive
notifications regarding Camp
Lejeune Historic Drinking Water.

Or Update Information