Vets learn options if they were exposed to tainted water

Published: Dec. 8, 2022 at 11:29 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 9, 2022 at 12:47 AM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - You’ve probably heard the Camp Lejeune commercials by now: People who lived or work at least 30 days at the North Carolina Marine base could be eligible for compensation.

After decades of back-and-forth with the government over hidden details about toxic water on the base, President Joe Bident signed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act.

Now people who lived or worked for at least 30 days at Camp Lejeune or who were exposed in-utero, between 1953 and 1987 can take legal action against the U.S. government.

Some veterans showed up to a forum Thursday night at the Elks Lodge in Augusta to learn more about their rights.

Attorneys, alongside some of the victims of that toxic water contamination, held the meeting along with famous environmental and consumer activist Erin Brockovich.

The goal was to let veterans know their rights.

Among those affected by the water at Camp Lejuene is Jerry Ensminger.

He lost his daughter Janie to leukemia when she was just 8.

During her last moments, he could never have imagined what caused her diagnosis.

His daughter had been conceived at the base in North Carolina and exposed to contaminated water that later led to her illness. How did he find out? A news story, years after his daughter had passed and he had retired.

“They wanted to do these follow-up studies on the children that had been born, carried or conceived on the base for birth defects and childhood cancers, primarily to leukemia,” Ensminger said. “When they said that, I dropped my plate of spaghetti on the living room floor.”

Mike Partain was born at Camp Lejuene, and until he was diagnosed with male breast cancer at the age of 39, the base was nothing to him but a location on his birth certificate.

“They said the chance of me generating male breast cancer on my own in the general population was 0.5%,” he said. “It’s kind of like: what contest in hell did I win to get this?”

Both men are traveling the country helping people affected by this tragedy.

Brockovich has joined forces with them, and she said town hall meetings like the one in Augusta provide answers for people. The three of them will be traveling across Georgia for the next two days.

“I think everybody in America, frankly, should be upset that we hid that kind of information from these men and women, and you harmed their children and took their life,” she said.