Camp Lejeune is one of many military bases in the United States with a history of severe pollution. Built in 1942, it covers over 156,000 acres in Jacksonville, North Carolina. From the beginning, its mission was to train Marines and sailors for war.Between 1953 and 1987, one million people lived at Camp Lejeune, all of whom were exposed to contaminated water. There is an increased risk of developing serious health problems from drinking These health problems include lung cancer, nephrotoxicity, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, aplastic anemia, liver cancer, and scleroderma. Black military personnel were at greater risk of drinking contaminated water than white military personnel. Most had fewer career opportunities than white military personnel, and were therefore more likely to live at Camp Lejeune or other, often contaminated, military bases.
The water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated with two types of contaminants. In 1982, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as perchlorethylene, vinyl chloride, trichlorethylene, and benzene were discovered lurking in water at military installations. VOCs are liquid and solid chemicals that easily evaporate into gases and pollute the environment. Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS for short) also contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune. PFAS, also known as “eternal chemicals,” are a group of over 5,000 different chemicals that can take nearly a thousand years to degrade. PFAS are also dangerous to human health and can cause bladder cancer, leukemia, prostate cancer, and lymphoma with long-term or frequent exposure.
The Origin of Camp Lejeune’s Toxic Chemicals
Two of Camp Lejeune’s eight water distribution plants have been heavily contaminated with industrial solvents for 34 years. The safe exposure limit for perchlorethylene and trichlorethylene is 5 ppb. The highest perchlorethylene level at the Tarawa Terrace Distribution Plant, which supplies Camp Lejeune, was 215 ppb, and the highest trichlorethylene level at the Hadnot Point Distribution Plant, which also serves Camp Lejeune, was 1,400 ppb. These harmful solvents came mainly from two sources. The military itself, which improperly disposed of the toxic substances used in washing weapons and equipment.
PFAS was recently detected in Camp Lejeune drinking water at a concentration of 172,000 ppt. A safe exposure limit for such chemicals is 70 ppt. This time his PFAS contamination was due to overuse of the fire extinguishing agent AFFF by firefighters and trainees, of which 50-98% consisted of these dangerous substances. AFFF was developed by the US Navy and his 3M company in 1966 and is highly effective in extinguishing jet fuel and oil fires. In 1989, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared Camp Lejeune a Superfund site, and cleanup work has been underway ever since.
Black military personnel more likely to develop devastating illnesses as a result of toxic exposures on military bases
During World War II, only 5% of all military personnel were black. Camp Lejeune has been segregated since its inception. Black Marines and sailors were stationed at Montford Point, an isolated military base that is now part of Camp Lejeune, and received basic training. Living conditions were unsanitary as the military installations were located in wetlands infested with insects. Black servicemen were allowed into Camp Lejeune alongside white Marines, where they regularly experienced racism. In addition, they were regularly denied promotion opportunities. When black servicemen became officers, they were often dissuaded from specializing in the combat disciplines that led to the highest jobs and four-star ranks. We should see a reflection of that mass in our ranks, from top to bottom, left to right,” Brigg said. Black Infantry General Milford Beagle commanding Fort His Jackson, the Army’s largest basic training center in South Carolina. In an article in USA Today.
Today, 19% of all military personnel are black. Despite this significant increase, statistics show that black military personnel still have fewer career advancement opportunities. A 2020 CNN review of data provided by the Department of Veterans were officers, whereas 76% of white military personnel had this high rank. Of his 245 generals, the highest rank in the army, only his 43 are black. Ninety-four colonels and slightly lower rank than generals, and only two blacks he. And of his 41 senior military commanders in the Army, he is the only two black.
“The relative number of minority officers has increased somewhat, but it’s not proportional to the increase we’re serving,” said former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin. With more members of the minority doing front-line work, the number of casualties is rising.”Since low-ranking military personnel typically live on military bases to gain training and experience, many facilities are still They also suffer from higher levels of exposure to the toxic substances present.
Today, more young minority officers are opting for combat duty, a sign of progress. “The fact that many major military bases are still named after Confederate leaders, and the continuing concern about white nationalism in military ranks – these factors are contributing to the recruitment of new and diverse talents. It could have detrimental effects on the ability of the army to hold,” said Bishop Garrison. , Chief Ambassador of Human Rights First to the National Security Community.
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Black communities breathe in 56% more pollution than they produce
Factors such as the unavailability of affordable land, redlining, historical racism, and a lack of political power to fight corporations and city planners have forced many black communities to rely on truck routes, ports, and toxic landfills. located near pollution hotspots such as land, industrial sites, etc. military base. The black population breathes 56% more toxic air than it emits, while the white population breathes 17% less pollution than it produces. Environmental racism, which refers to the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color, is one of the leading causes of death in the black community. Both income and race are involved in environmental racism, with the latter being the most reliable and accurate indicator of proximity to pollution.
Half of Jacksonville’s residents live in Camp Lejeune. Rent and land costs are slightly lower, making it more accessible than other parts of the city. They are all exposed to toxic substances. Although Camp Lejeune’s drinking water is now safer for consumption, he still has PFAS lurking in at least 14 locations in the camp. These chemicals are difficult to remove from the environment, even with the most effective and innovative techniques. Only by 2025 will an assessment of the risks and exposures posed by his PFAS contamination on military installations be completed. It is estimated that it will take decades to completely cleanse Camp Lejeune.
How can we combat racism and social injustice in our environment?
Public law could not hold companies accountable for toxic releases. Businesses receive lower fines for violating environmental laws, mostly in low-income or black neighborhoods. This only encourages companies to continue to pollute these same areas.
Unlike public law, private law helps vulnerable communities achieve environmental justice using legal tools such as toxic torts and class action lawsuits. Toxic tort protects the rights of disadvantaged communities whose health is threatened by corporate unethical behavior. It is also an effective tool for holding companies in the chemical and industrial industries accountable for environmental pollution. By collecting and filing class action lawsuits, people in affected communities have a much better chance of achieving justice than if they filed their grievances through public law.
With the help of a reputable and experienced law firm that specializes in toxic exposures, vulnerable communities may receive significant financial compensation from companies endangering their health. This may lead to changes in the behavior of such companies in the future. By having to pay millions, if not billions, to those they harm, these industries may implement policies that minimize the amount of pollution they emit. Additionally, it can discourage companies from reckless pollution when litigation, which is often the most costly part of resolving a lawsuit, can impact revenue.
The passage of the Camp Lejeune Judiciary Act, which was proposed in the spring of 2021 and signed into law by President Biden on August 11, 2022. Between January 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987, if you develop toxic water-related health problems for at least 30 days, you can file a lawsuit with the U.S. government. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act helps veterans obtain the compensation they deserve for their unjust suffering, but it has limitations. Victims of exposure to poisons have until 2024 to file claims with the government.
Finally, it is also important to provide a platform where people of color affected by pollution can speak freely and devise solutions to minimize environmental racism. Perhaps the most effective way to combat environmental racism is through a combination of grassroots activism and cooperation with disenfranchised communities and private law firms. Grassroots movements continue to energize people in ways that encourage and induce political and economic change. Adding private law to the mix will further help combat environmental inequality.