The Navy and Justice Department announced a new settlement offer Wednesday to some of the tens of thousands of people who claim they contracted deadly diseases from exposure to contaminated water decades ago at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
More than 93,000 people have filed claims under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, which allows people to seek a payout for injuries caused by exposure to toxic water at the Marine Corps Base from mid-1953 through 1987. But most are still pending as the Navy has struggled to process the deluge of claims.
The new offer, called the Elective Option, allows qualifying people to receive a certain payout faster than having to fight the government in court for several months or even years with no guarantee of success.
“The Elective Option is a critical step in bringing relief to qualifying claimants impacted by the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, who will now have an avenue for receiving quick and early resolution of claims under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act,” Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said in a statement.
The payouts range from $150,000 to $450,000 — with an additional $100,000 offered if the exposure resulted in a death.
The Navy and Justice Department will reach out to those among the 93,000 people who have filed claims and qualify for the Elective Option, offering them a set amount of money.
The claimants will have 60 days to decide if they want to take the money or keep fighting for a larger settlement.
Senior Navy and DOJ officials would not put a specific timeline on how quickly the payments could begin but said it would be promptly after acceptance. The officials expect the number of people filing claims to continue to rise.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has estimated that up to 900,000 service members were potentially exposed to the contaminated water. The diseases believed to have been caused by the toxic water include kidney, liver and bladder cancer, leukemia and Parkinson’s disease.
Two contaminated wells at Camp Lejeune closed in 1985, but sailors, Marines, families and civilians on the base had already been exposed to the contaminants for decades, according to government studies.