Marine Veteran Seeks Legal Help in Chemical Incident; Other Marines to Join Lawsuit


HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- On a hot summer day while on the job most of us don't think twice about taking a drink of water, but it's not the case for Geoff Johnston.

He got a letter from the government about three years ago, letting him know the water he was drinking while stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C., was potentially contaminated with unsafe levels of chemicals.

Johnston was there between 1982 and 1985. In a letter from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs from at least the 1950s to the 1980s chemicals that were used as dry cleaning solvents, weapon cleaning chemicals and fuel components got into a water source on the base.

They have long names but they are known as "volatile organic compounds."

News about this issue started in 1984.

Johnston, who is a carpenter now, received a letter from the government three years ago.

He says he doesn't have any current health issues.

"I was angry at the beginning. Then I started thinking about accountability," Johnston said.

The chemicals have been known to cause medical conditions from several different types of cancers, neurobehavioral issues and infertility.

In a statement Wednesday from the Marines to WSAZ.com, a spokesperson wrote, "At this time we do not know if the past exposure to the volatile organic compounds in Camp Lejeune's drinking water caused adverse health effects in individuals."

Under a law put into place in August 2012, veterans will receive care for these issues.

But Johnston says it doesn't go far enough. He also believes there should be financial compensation for victims.

"If they would send me a letter saying that the administrator of the EPA in Washington had his salary and retirement taken away, that would help me," he said. "The commanding general in North Carolina during that time, they stripped him of his retirement. That would help me."

"'It's like David and Goliath. Every time I think I take a step, they knock me back two, but that is OK. I am in it."

Johnston has been pounding the pavement trying to get a lawsuit filed in West Virginia -- all without a lawyer.

Lawsuits have been filed in two others states. The government is asking Johnston join one in Georgia.

"If we had 50 states involved with this, they would have to address it now. We need a conclusion now."

For a man who served missions in the Marines for 13 years in 36 countries, Johnston is on a new mission: one to help the protect the people who helped protect this country.


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