Craig Unterberg of Haynes and Boone Appointed to Panel Assisting Veterans Affected by Camp Lejeune Water Pollution

10/20/2015

Craig Unterberg, Haynes and Boone, LLP New York partner and chair of the firm’s Prime Brokerage and Equity Lending Practice Group, has been appointed to the Citizens Assistance Panel to help former residents of the Camp Lejeune U.S. Marine base suffering health problems stemming from decades of water pollution on the base.

Unterberg’s family lived on the base in the 1970s and has encountered health problems believed to be associated with the drinking water that was contaminated primarily with PCE (perchloroethylene or tetrachloroethylene).

After learning that a significant number of the former Lejeune residents seeking federal medical assistance through the Veterans Administration for related illnesses were being rejected, Unterberg said he sought out a way to help the afflicted.

“It just isn’t right the way these families are being swept aside after they’ve suffered such devastating illnesses from the decades of pollution,” Unterberg said. “I thought as a lawyer I needed to get involved and help.”

Unterberg’s inquiries resulted in his appointment to the Camp Lejeune Community Assistance Panel (CAP), a federally mandated panel of lay people who represent the community victims in dealings with the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).

The purpose of the CAP is to voice the concerns of the affected community of marines and their families and to provide input for health studies.  Members also provide local knowledge about exposure to hazardous substances and the resulting health problems.

The ATSDR began working at Camp Lejeune in 1989. It is ATSDR’s position that past exposures from the 1950s through February 1985 to trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), vinyl chloride and other contaminants in the drinking water at the Camp Lejeune likely increased the risk of cancers (kidney, multiple myeloma, leukemias and others), adverse birth outcomes, and other deleterious health effects of residents, civilian workers, Marines and Navy personnel at Camp Lejeune.

The Camp Lejeune CAP has been one of the most successful community participation groups established by the ATSDR and Centers for Disease Control. Thus far, this CAP’s members have provided local knowledge about the operation of water utilities and contamination history, determining that fuel losses at the base were much higher than original estimates. CAP members have also worked closely with Congress by gaining their involvement, oversight and support (including funding of ATSDR activities at the base) and advocating for federal laws on behalf of Marines who were stationed at the base.

“We are hopeful that, through our efforts with the Camp Lejeune CAP, we can focus attention on this massive problem and get those afflicted with pollution-caused illnesses the treatment and attention they deserve,” Unterberg said. “Anything less is simply unacceptable for us as a country.”

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