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Fort Ord Water Contamination Lawsuit

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The Fort Ord water contamination lawsuit addresses serious environmental and health concerns arising from toxic substances found in the water supply at the former Fort Ord military base in California. 

These lawsuits seek justice and compensation for individuals who were exposed to hazardous chemicals, including per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), TCE, asbestos, and benzene and have since suffered from various health issues. 

The legal action aims to hold the federal government and other responsible parties accountable for the contamination and its impact on sick Fort Ord veterans, military families, and civilian employees who lived or worked at Fort Ord, highlighting the broader issue of environmental safety and health risks associated with military installations.

Notable Updates on Fort Ord Water Contamination Lawsuits

The Fort Ord water contamination lawsuits are part of a larger legal battle addressing the presence and impact of PFAS chemicals (also referred to as forever chemicals) on military personnel and civilian populations. 

These suits are gaining momentum as more evidence comes to light regarding the harmful health effects of these substances. 

Any Fort Ord veteran and their families, along with civilians who were present at Fort Ord army base, are now eligible to file lawsuits if they have developed certain illnesses attributed to toxic exposure. 

This development stems from a broader federal court lawsuit based in Charleston, South Carolina, which initially focused on municipalities with contaminated water supplies and firefighters exposed to toxins in the line of duty. 

The expanding scope of the lawsuit now recognizes the significant human health risks associated with residing or working on a military base like Fort Ord, linking specific illnesses to toxic exposure at these sites. 

The judge overseeing the case has mentioned conducting early test trials, or bellwether trials, which could specifically address exposure incidents at or near a military base. This highlights the growing acknowledgment of the health impacts of contamination at locations such as Fort Ord.

The U.S. Army confirmed the presence of Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA), two of the most researched chemicals within the PFAS group, at the former Fort Ord site near Salinas, California. [1] 

This revelation has significant implications for members of the military and civilians who were stationed at Fort Ord between 1966 and 1994, placing them at an increased risk for severe health issues. 

Fort Ord Lawsuit Eligibility Criteria

Eligibility to file a lawsuit depends on several criteria, and it is important to understand them to determine whether you may have a case:

  • Toxic Exposure Period: Proving that you resided at or worked at Fort Ord over the appropriate period is critical. If you either resided at or worked at Fort Ord during the period of PFOS and PFOA contamination at Fort Ord between 1966 and 1994, you might be eligible to file a lawsuit.
  • Health Problems Caused by PFAS Exposure: You will also need to show that you have a health problem caused by toxic chemicals. Common health issues include cancer, like kidney cancer, testicular cancer or blood cancer, thyroid issues, and other illnesses linked to PFAS.

Toxic Chemicals in Fort Ord Drinking Water

Fort Ord, a former military base on the Monterey Bay of California’s Central Coast, has a storied past. From 1917 until its closure in 1994, it played a crucial role in military training and operations. 

Today, you’re likely to know it not only for its historical significance but also for the environmental legacy left behind, particularly concerning water contamination. In 1990, Fort Ord was even added to the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of most polluted places in the nation. 

The former military installation is now a federal Superfund site and mandates approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California agency for toxic substances and disease control for environmental cleanup and safety measures.

Common contaminants found in Fort Ord’s wells and in the ground include:

TCE chemicals are toxic solvents that were widely used for degreasing metal parts and in numerous other manufacturing processes. It was also used in maintenance shops and to clean equipment at Fort Ord, resulting in the presence of toxic substances in the groundwater. 

Through the years of improper disposal and leaks, it managed to spread and contaminate the water supply, high above legal safety limits, causing significant health hazards to the general population. The Department of Health and Human Services found that TCE can cause kidney cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. [2]

PFAS are a class of human-made chemicals present in several consumer items and firefighting foam that have been heavily utilized in military training activities. Their ability to resist water, oil, and heat was advantageous in many ways, but these chemicals do not biodegrade in the environment or the human body, allowing them to accumulate over time. 

The presence of PFAS in Fort Ord water and burn pits is part of a more widespread problem that has been affecting military installations worldwide for many decades and has been associated with severe health issues (similar to those seen at Camp Lejeune). PFAS exposure lawsuit lawyers can offer assistance and represent the victims in obtaining compensation.

According to Military Poisons, the levels of PFAS found at Fort Ord were more than 20,000 times over the EPA limit. [3]

Asbestos was widely used in the construction industry as well as on military bases due to its resistance to heat and other properties. Buildings at Fort Ord were built at a time when asbestos was still being used in various components such as insulation and flooring, among others. 

Asbestos fibers are released into the environment when these materials are disturbed during demolition or renovation, putting people at risk for inhalation, which leads to serious health risks, including cancer. [4] 

In addition to the primary contaminants, the Fort Ord base has been found to be affected by other hazardous substances, including dichloroethane (DCE), carbon tetrachloride (CT), tetrachloroethene (PCE), and benzene that are likely above the legal safety limit. [4] 

DCE, CT, and PCE are harsh chemicals that are said to have detrimental health effects on the liver and kidneys due to their toxic properties. Benzene is associated with the development of rare blood cancers and disorders, highlighting the critical need for comprehensive environmental cleanup and health monitoring at sites like Fort Ord.

Health Problems Associated With Drinking Contaminated Water

Ingesting Fort Ord’s contaminated water is related to many health conditions, given the toxic chemicals used in the water. The following are some of the most common and serious health problems that are related to direct exposure to these chemicals: 

  • Immediate Symptoms: Some people may experience immediate side effects after consuming contaminated drinking water. Symptoms include vomiting, nausea, skin rash, and eye irritation. 
  • Neurological Effects: These chemicals can lead to headaches, dizziness, or even cognitive and coordination impairment in severe cases.
  • Liver and Kidney Damage: DCE, CT, and PCE are known to attack the body’s liver and kidneys, threatening liver disease, kidney damage, and sometimes, outright failure of these organs.
  • Respiratory Problems: Asbestos inhalation can cause symptoms including shortness of breath and coughing and long-term problems such as asbestosis, lung cancer, and pleural mesothelioma, which is a type of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs.
  • Cancer: Long-term toxic exposure to polluted drinking water at Fort Ord is also a known cause of increased cancer risk, including, leukemia, liver cancer, kidney cancer, non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, multiple myeloma, testicular cancer, and more.

Pregnant women also face issues when they come into contact with contaminated water, such as low birth weight and other pregnancy issues.

How to File a Fort Ord Water Contamination Lawsuit

Filing a lawsuit against the army and the federal government requires taking certain steps to give you the best chance to be compensated for your damages. Here is an overview of what this looks like for those who were a part of the Fort Ord military community:

  • Document your toxic exposure: Compile evidence of your time at Fort Ord, including residences and employment dates, as well as any forms of documentation that may establish you were linked to affected areas, like burn pits.
  • Gather medical records: Get all medical documents of conditions or diseases related to contaminated drinking water to show what you’re dealing with as a result—for example, liver cancer or multiple myeloma.
  • Consult an attorney and file your suit: Hire a law firm that is experienced in handling environmental injury cases like these. They will be able to advise you on the viability of your suit and help you determine what steps you should take next. If applicable, they will assist you in drafting and filing the paperwork, and initiate the lawsuit.  
  • Engage in discovery: Both parties will exchange information through discovery after you have filed your case. Evidence will be collected and can involve depositions, document requests, and interrogatories. 
  • Negotiate a settlement: Most cases are settled out of court, and your attorney will engage with the defendant to reach a settlement without having to go to trial.
  • Go to trial: If no settlement is achieved, the lawsuit will proceed to trial. A judge or jury will hear the evidence and decide whether your claims have merit and how much compensation you should receive.

The support and counsel of a personal injury lawyer are critical at each stage of this process. 

Evidence Needed to Support Your Claim

To be successful in a Fort Ord water contamination lawsuit, you will have to collect extensive evidence backing up your claims of illness. This evidence will be vital in proving a direct connection between your use of contaminated drinking water and subsequent health problems. 

The types of evidence you will have to collect include:

  • Proof of your presence at Fort Ord
  • Medical records
  • Expert testimonies
  • Environmental reports
  • Witness statements

Effective evidence collection and presentation requires comprehensive knowledge of both legal and scientific processes. 

The window to pursue legal action for water contamination in cases involving military bases (like this and those who were stationed at Camp Lejeune, for instance) is governed by statutes of limitations, which differ across states. 

These legal deadlines dictate how long you are given to file a lawsuit after discovering harm caused by contamination. Failure to act within the prescribed period can result in the loss of your right to seek justice and compensation. 

Fort Ord Lawsuit Settlement Financial Compensation Estimation

The financial compensation that victims will receive in a Fort Ord lawsuit depends on a variety of factors, making estimations of compensation challenging. While it is hard to predict the exact figures, many legal professionals expect that the general settlements will vary between $30,000 and $500,000.

Settlement amounts are influenced by different factors. such as the age at diagnosis and the duration or severity of the toxic exposure. For instance, particularly severe cases may warrant damages in the millions. 

Ultimately, injured parties may seek various types of damages to compensate for their losses and suffering. These can include economic damages, which cover quantifiable losses like medical expenses, lost wages, and costs for future care, and non-economic damages, which account for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. 

In some cases, punitive damages may also be pursued to punish the responsible parties for their egregious behavior and deter similar misconduct in the future.

Contact a Fort Ord Water Contamination Lawyer Today!

Jonathan Rosenfeld, Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer

If you’ve been affected by the water contamination at Fort Ord, securing the right legal representation is critical. By choosing to work with Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, you benefit from our extensive experience in environmental litigation, ensuring your case is handled with the expertise it deserves. We operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning you don’t pay unless we win your case, removing financial risk from your shoulders. 

Take the first step towards securing the justice and compensation you deserve by contacting us today. Reach out online or call us at (888) 424-5757.

Resources: [1] LAProgressive, [2] NIH, [3] Military Poisons, [4] NY Times, [5] EPA

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