Ex-Camp Lejeune schools worker sues over water

Source: http://washingtonexaminer.com, April 15, 2011
By: Tom Breen

Contaminated water at Camp Lejeune led to an aggressive form of cancer for a woman who worked at schools on the base for over two decades, according to claims in a federal lawsuit that will be considered with several others by a judge in Atlanta.

Linda Jones, of Jacksonville, seeks unspecified damages in the lawsuit filed this week. Jones, 62, says she developed non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2007, after about 22 years of working in food service at schools on the Marine Corps base.

“At the moment her cancer is in remission, but with lymphoma that doesn’t mean much,” said Port Washington, New York-based attorney Michael Hugo, one of the lawyers representing Jones. “She can’t work. She loved her job and had to leave it because of her illness.”

Non-Hodgkins lymphoma is a cancer that affects the spleen, lymph nodes and other organs of the immune system.

Jones’ lawsuit joins numerous other legal complaints related to water at the base. Four of those lawsuits, including Jones’, have been consolidated before a special court in Atlanta, with more likely to follow, according to the order by a judicial panel that ruled the cases should go before a single judge.

Judge Owen Forrester has not yet scheduled an initial hearing on the lawsuits, which include complaints filed in Georgia, Florida and Alabama along with Jones’ case.

Concerns over tainted water at Lejeune have been the subject of congressional hearings and political debate as well as legal wrangling. On Friday, both of North Carolina’s senators and one member of the U.S. House of Representatives, along with members of Congress from Florida and Michigan, called on the Department of the Navy “to finally provide answers to Marines and their families about health effects from the contaminated water.” The letter also questions the department’s commitment to transparency on the issue.

Wells at the base were contaminated by fuel leaks and other sources of pollution, in some cases for decades before tests alerted officials to the problem. Health officials believe as many as 1 million people may have been exposed to tainted water before the wells were closed two decades ago.

“What doesn’t make sense to me is why the federal government has allowed this to get to the point where people are actually filing federal lawsuits,” Hugo said. “They have the ability to take care of this. They know who the people are. All they had to do was step up to the plate and do the right thing.”

Lila Bakke, a spokeswoman for the Navy’s Office of the Judge Advocate General, which represents the Marine Corps in legal matters, said the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation. A call to the Justice Department was not immediately returned Friday.

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