Camp Lejeune’s Toxic Legacy: Understanding TCE and PCE Contamination

The Camp Lejeune water contamination saga is a sobering chapter in the annals of environmental disasters. For decades, military personnel, their families, and civilian residents unknowingly consumed water tainted with hazardous chemicals. Two of the most insidious culprits in this contamination were Trichloroethylene (TCE) and Tetrachloroethylene (PCE), with alarming impacts on human health. 

In this article, we explore the roles of TCE and PCE in the Camp Lejeune water crisis, revealing their profound consequences.

Understanding the Contamination at Camp Lejeune

Camp Lejeune, situated in North Carolina, has been a residence for numerous military personnel and their families over the years. Regrettably, they were unaware that the water they consumed contained harmful substances such as TCE and PCE, among other toxic chemicals. 

These contaminants seeped into the base’s water supply through various sources, including nearby dry cleaning facilities and improper waste disposal practices. These hazardous chemicals were identified at two distinct locations: the Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point Water Treatment Plants. 

Additionally, the Holcomb Boulevard Plant was impacted as it relied on the Hadnot Point plant during peak demand periods. These facilities provided water to various groups, including enlisted-family housing, unmarried military personnel in barracks, administrative offices, schools, and recreational areas on the base. 

Furthermore, the Hadnot Point Water Treatment Plant provided water to an on-base hospital and an adjacent industrial area. It also supplied water to residences linked to the Holcomb Boulevard water system, initially operating full-time until 1972 and subsequently, on an intermittent basis.

The affected population primarily comprised young families and young adults of reproductive age, as noted by the TorHoerman Law. It’s important to recognize that this population was transient, with varying durations of stay at Camp Lejeune. Consequently, exposure varied, with some facing short-term contact with contaminated water while others endured repeated, long-term exposure.

Those affected by the Camp Lejeune tainted water may be eligible to file a claim for medical expense coverage. This holds true regardless of whether their time on the base was brief or extended. 

The good news is that there are dedicated teams who specialize in the nuanced history of this issue. It’s crucial to reach out to an experienced attorney who can truly understand your symptoms and guide you through the available options. 

When it comes to potential Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit settlement amounts, they can vary significantly, ranging from $10,000 to as much as $500,000 per claim. 

TCE – The Silent Intruder

Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a widely used industrial solvent known for its degreasing properties. It’s employed in various manufacturing processes, including metal parts cleaning and electronics production. However, when TCE enters the environment, it can contaminate groundwater, leading to dire consequences.

TCE at Camp Lejeune

TCE, or trichloroethylene, was detected in the water supply of Camp Lejeune’s Hadnot Point Water Treatment Plant. This particular plant primarily catered to the main side barracks and family housing. 

The extent of contamination was alarmingly severe, with TCE levels soaring to an astonishing 1,400 parts per billion (ppb) in certain cases. To provide context, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set the maximum contaminant level for TCE in drinking water at a mere 5 ppb. 


The contamination levels at Camp Lejeune exceeded this standard by hundreds of times. Remarkably, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) highlights TCE as the most frequently reported organic contaminant found in groundwater. In fact, the agency notes that TCE contamination affects between 9% and 34% of drinking water supply sources to some degree.

Health Effects of TCE

TCE is a known carcinogen, and its adverse effects on human health are well-documented. 

Short-term exposure to these contaminants can lead to symptoms like dizziness, headaches, and fatigue. On the other hand, long-term exposure can result in damage to the central nervous system, kidneys, liver, and immune system. TCE exposure has also been linked to certain cancers, including kidney and liver cancer.

PCE – A Hidden Peril

Tetrachloroethylene (PCE), also known as perchloroethylene, shares similarities with TCE as an industrial solvent. It’s commonly used in dry cleaning, metal degreasing, and other manufacturing processes.

PCE at Camp Lejeune

PCE contamination was primarily associated with the Tarawa Terrace Water Treatment Plant, which supplied water to family housing units. The source was traced back to a nearby dry cleaning facility, where improper waste disposal practices allowed the chemical to infiltrate the groundwater. At its peak, PCE concentrations in the water supply exceeded 200 ppb, far exceeding safe levels.

Health Effects of PCE

PCE, like TCE, is a potent carcinogen. Exposure to these contaminants can lead to a range of health problems, including liver and kidney damage, as well as anemia. Additionally, it elevates the risk of various cancers, such as bladder and esophageal cancer.

The Ongoing Impact

The contamination of Camp Lejeune’s water supply with TCE and PCE had dire consequences for the well-being of those who were exposed. Numerous residents and military personnel who consumed this tainted water have endured severe health afflictions, including cancer and neurological disorders. 

A troubling study unveiled that the Lejeune Marines faced roughly a 10 percent higher risk of succumbing to various forms of cancer. This elevated risk was in comparison to their counterparts at Pendleton. 

Recognizing the insidious nature of these chemicals is crucial. It implies that the complete scope of the harm inflicted may not become fully apparent for years to come.

Seeking Justice and Compensation

In the wake of this environmental disaster, legal initiatives have been set in motion to ensure accountability and offer recompense to the affected individuals. Those at Camp Lejeune during the contaminated water period have a rightful claim to seek justice for their health damages.

To date, over 1,100 federal lawsuits have been filed, along with an additional 93,000 administrative claims. All of these legal actions are driven by the common goal of seeking compensation for the injuries and suffering inflicted upon the victims. 

These legal actions embody a collective endeavor aimed at confronting the severe repercussions of the contamination. They are driven by the intention to offer much-needed relief to the victims who have borne the weight of this unfortunate situation.


The role of TCE and PCE in Camp Lejeune’s water contamination highlights the serious impact of hazardous chemicals on human lives. The legacy of this tragedy serves as a rallying cry for stricter environmental regulations and greater accountability. 

It also emphasizes the importance of vigilance in safeguarding our water sources. We must ensure that no one else has to endure the devastating consequences experienced by the residents of Camp Lejeune.