Originally published May 1 2014
Obama administration sides with chemical company against cancer victims to avoid liability for sick Marines
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) When Lee Ann Smith's son was 11, she was informed about something no parent ever wants to hear: that he had cancer.
Three years later, she steeled herself for yet another diagnosis: Her younger son had developed a large bone tumor in his leg.
"I was numb," she recalled to E&E Publishing's Greenwire.
Turns out that the bone tumor was benign, but it nevertheless spurred Smith to begin looking for what could have caused both of her sons to be stricken, considering that there was no preexisting history of cancer or tumors.
'Hit... where it hurts'
She began looking at an abandoned electroplating facility that had once been suspected of contaminating groundwater with solvents from the plant. Some of the solvents, Greenwire reported, were known carcinogens. And she knew that her sons had played in the creeks behind the closed plant:
Smith formed an activist group dedicated to a cleanup. And, in 2011, she and two dozen of the site's neighbors filed a lawsuit against the plant's former owner -- CTS Corp. of Elkhart, Ind. -- seeking damages and hoping to force the company to take remedial action.
"CTS needs to be hit ... where it hurts," she said. "They are not going to be compelled by human decency to do the socially responsible thing."
Their case, CTS Corp. v. Waldburger, is scheduled to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in April. The former owner is attempting to use a technical legal argument, however, to prevent the landowners from getting a full trial. The company is saying that Asheville residents took too long to file their claims.
As are many Supreme Court cases, this one is complicated in that it involves entangling esoteric legal jargon, and as such has largely gone unnoticed by watchers of the high court. But it has gotten the attention of at least one major entity -- no less than the federal government -- which has summarily intervened on the side of CTS.
The Department of Justice is claiming that the government has a "substantial interest" in whatever precedent is eventually set by the high court -- because it is facing nearly a dozen claims from former U.S. Marines and their families who were exposed to contaminated water at the Marine Corps training base, Camp Lejeune.
According to the Greenwire report, thousands of Marines used water that was contaminated with toxic chemicals at the base from 1957 to 1987. Some experts have opined that it represents the largest water contamination in the history of the country; veterans and their families have reported large numbers of male breast cancer and other afflictions since their time at the training base.
So, if CTS wins its argument, that could shield the government -- namely, the Department of Defense -- from having to pay potentially millions of dollars in claims to the families.
'What the hell is the matter with our Department of Justice?'
The Department of Justice's position in the CTS case has opened the Obama administration to criticism that it's talking out of both sides of its mouth. In 2012, President Obama signed legislation providing increased health care benefits to Camp Lejeune victims. Now, his administration is seeking to cut off their access to courts, they say.
"They are trying to use this CTS case as camouflage so that they can kill every Camp Lejeune case in the crib," said Jerry Ensminger, a Marine veteran whose 9-year-old daughter died of leukemia after spending time at the base. "Doesn't anyone find it odd that our Department of Justice is siding with a known polluter, number one, and they are taking the side of state law over federal law? What the hell is the matter with our Department of Justice?"
"I just wanted to make some contribution," Smith says. "That was going to be the silver lining of my cloud. I could make a difference in somebody else's life or situation or prevent them or their children from having to go through it."
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