Sick veteran exposed to toxic Camp Lejeune water cautioning others to avoid settlement scams
A Kentucky veteran has spent the past decade fighting for service members and their families harmed by the toxic water at Camp Lejeune and is now suffering ill health effects of his own from his short stay aboard the base. He’s also warning other veterans about social media scams concerning the fight for compensation.
Thirty-nine years ago, Brian Amburgey served in the Marine Corps and was stationed at Camp Lejeune for combat engineer training for three months. He’s now battling emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and possibly lung cancer – all conditions he said were brought on by the toxic drinking water aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
“We were using it for showers, cooking the food, washing our clothes, use it to brush our teeth,” he explained, “I mean, and the big thing was hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, especially when we was out in the field. So, we was drinking it straight, straight from the water buffalo.”
Water buffaloes are tanks mounted on trailers to provide service members with drinking water when they are in the field.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as one million military and civilian staff and their families might have been exposed to the contaminated drinking water.
The contamination of two of the eight water treatment plants on base started in the early 1950s, and the most contaminated wells were not shut down until 1985.
"That's one thing that, you know, that gets me the most is you got the Marines and Navy personnel, they're with their families and the children and stuff, and they were knowingly letting them drink the water, using the baby formula,” Amburgey said, “And it was beyond words trying to describe how I really feel, and how everybody else probably feels, about what the government done to us.”
The water contained trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), vinyl chloride, and other contaminants.
Amburgey is now warning fellow veterans of scams surrounding the Camp Lejeune Justice Act.
“There was one ad that was running on Facebook that was using my picture and stuff and said I got a $350,000 settlement. I didn't even get $0.35,” he said. His lawyer issued a cease-and-desist order to get that ad removed.
Passed in Congress nearly a year ago, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act allows veterans who were stationed there or lived or worked on base a minimum of 30 days to file a claim with the Navy.
"Once your claim is filed with the Department of Navy they have six months to give us an answer on whether they're accepted or denied,” he said. “If I’m not mistaken, they’ve only accepted ten and the rest of them they have not responded to.”
If a settlement can’t be reached, a claim can be filed in court and a jury would decide the outcome of the case and how much the claim is worth.
And he’s disappointed about how long it’s taking for the process to work its way through the system.
Amburgey said, “They're trying to treat us just like, you know, they did with Vietnam Veterans with Agent Orange. Deny, deny, deny ‘till we die.”
He emphasized that, contrary to information circulating on social media, there is no amount of money set aside for Camp Lejeune and there is not a $21-billion settlement with the Department of Justice that’s going to pay Veterans.
Amburgey suggested that anyone that may have been impacted find an attorney to help file a claim with the Navy, and to ask for a free, toxic screening to be done at the VA for results of water contamination.