Thousands of people may have been poisoned over the span of several decades from contaminated water at a military base. Mike Papantonio is joined by attorney Sara Papantonio to explain what happened.

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*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio:            Thousands of people may have been poisoned over the span of several decades from contaminated water at a military base. Joining me to talk about this is attorney Sara Papantonio. This is a huge case. Might be the biggest case in the country right now that, why, why don’t you lay it out for us a little bit? Okay.

Sara Papantonio:              Well, it absolutely is huge. And, and it hasn’t been brought to light really until the last, let’s say 10 years. So what happens is there’s a camp in North Carolina called Camp Lejeune. It’s primarily a Marine base.

Mike Papantonio:             Mm-hmm.

Sara Papantonio:              From the fifties to the eighties, the base’s water supply and everyone who’s drinking the water, was contaminated with very, very toxic chemicals, things that we call benzene, TCEs, PCEs. That went on for 30 years. For, so for 30 years, Marines, veterans and their families were ingesting these toxic chemicals without knowing about it.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah.

Sara Papantonio:              So just today, 20 years, you know, 50 years later we’re really learning just how bad and just what kind of an effect these toxic chemicals are having on those veterans and those families that were stationed there.

Mike Papantonio:             What, what’s interesting about this, Sara, is every one of the chemicals you just mentioned if you go buy it in, however you go about getting it, it has a skull and crossbones on it. This is what people were drinking. Entire families were coming down with illnesses. Now, first of all, there’s 9 million service, 9 million service individuals that were exposed to this, right?

Sara Papantonio:              Right. We’re, we’re talking about the span of 30 years that these people had no idea what they were ingesting. And, and when you’re talking about a military base, people are coming and going, so up to 9 million people have been exposed to these dangerous toxins.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah. Vinyl chloride, as you pointed out, benzene, tetrachloroethylene, which is, I mean, all of these things are, this is the type of stuff that they use to kill rats basically. And this is what these folks were drinking. It was detected in 1982. Is that right?

Sara Papantonio:              That’s correct.

Mike Papantonio:             And what did they do in 1982? Did it, did anything activity wise take place after that?

Sara Papantonio:              So they became aware of the issue in 1982, and they really didn’t do much about it until the late 1980s. And that’s when we had a group of scientists come in and actually measured the levels and measure the, the rate or quantity of exposure.

Mike Papantonio:             Mm-hmm.

Sara Papantonio:              That these people had. And, and I, I hate to say this, but really when you talk about these chemicals and you talk about the, the rate at which they were exposed, it is shocking.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, I see one, for example, TCE, which you ever, which you, what you would agree is actually one of the worst that there was the, the, the accepted threshold. In other words, the, the, the number that the EPA gives, which to me is meaningless, because they’re a bunch of dopes, but even they say you should not have more than five parts per billion in that water. TCE was 1,400 parts per billion that, that families were drinking. They’re bathing in it. They’re swimming in it. They’re watering their gar, their garden with it. And so entire families have come down with these, these terrible diseases. Right?

Sara Papantonio:              Right. And when we talk about the diseases, it’s, it’s everything in between, you know, a few and far between. So we’ve got all kinds of cancers. We have all kinds of birth defects, Parkinson’s disease, miscarriages. I mean, just terrible, terrible injuries.

Mike Papantonio:             Sara, this was, this has been characterized and I wanted, I mean, I know you’ve been working on this case and it’s been characterized in, in two or three articles I’ve read as the worst chemical contamination in, in US history. And as you look at this, do you, you kind of buy into that?

Sara Papantonio:              It absolutely is. I mean, we had a, this problem that existed for 30 years, had effect on up to 9 million people. This is, this is massive.

Mike Papantonio:             What is the VA doing with these folks right now? When they, when they figured out, yes we did we, we we’ve killed you. We’ve given you diseases that are gonna kill your children, your spouse, everybody in the family. We did that to you. What is the VA doing with that now?

Sara Papantonio:              So the VA is offering some compensation for veterans who have developed a, a small list of cancers or small list of injuries. The problem here is that the VA is not protecting the families. You don’t just have the veterans that were exposed. You have the mothers, the daughters, the sons, everyone who lived on the base with them. And as, at this point, they have no ability to recover for those injuries.

Mike Papantonio:             Mm-hmm. Okay. So the, so the list is birth defects, bladder cancer, breast cancer, cardiac effects, cervical cancer, esophageal cancer, female infertility, kidney cancer, leukemia, liver cancer, lung cancer, miscarriage, multiple myeloma, Non-Hodgkins lymphoma. I mean, this is the list that the, the, the government knew as early as 1982, actually, they, they should have known well before that. I think when we get into this, we’re gonna find they knew well before then. But certainly by 1982, they, it was clear that all of these illnesses that were, that, that were popping up from an epidemiology standpoint, I mean, the numbers were staggering. And nevertheless, they let it ride for a long time, didn’t they?

Sara Papantonio:              Right. When you, when we’re talking about TCEs, PCEs, benzenes, you don’t just take remedial action to clean the water. You close those water supplies down forever. Don’t let anyone touch them ever again because these, these toxins are so dangerous.

Mike Papantonio:             Sara, thank you for joining me. Good luck on, on this with, with this case.

That’s all for this week, but all these segments are gonna be available in the coming week right here on this channel. And you can follow us on Twitter @americaslawyer. I’m Mike Papantonio and this has been America’s Lawyer where every week we tell you stories that corporate media won’t tell you because their advertisers don’t let ’em or their political connections just don’t allow for it. We’ll see you next time.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.