The Supreme Court refused Monday to hear a Marine's lawsuit blaming the government's dumping of toxic chemicals at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina for his son's illnesses.
The high court declined to hear an appeal by Donal McLean Snyder Jr. of a lower court's dismissal of his lawsuit.
A Marine Corps spokesman had no immediate comment on the legal ramifications of the ruling, but said the corps is concerned about the water situation.
Health officials think that as many as 1 million people may have been exposed to water toxins over a span of about three decades before the wells were closed 22 years ago.
Snyder lived at Camp Lejeune as a young 1st lieutenant the 1970s, and said the dumping of trichloroethylene, an ingredient in cleaning solvents, into the ground polluted the water.
Snyder said his son was born in 1971 with a congenital heart defect because his pregnant wife drank the water at Camp Lejeune. Donal McLean Snyder III is facing a second open heart surgery, court papers say.
The lower courts said trichloroethylene was not regulated as a dangerous substance until the late 1970s. Because of that, the government cannot be faulted for the dumping at Camp Lejeune while Snyder's wife was pregnant with their son.
Federal health officials plan to withdraw a 1997 assessment of health effects from the contamination at Camp Lejeune because of omissions and scientific inaccuracy. The past statement had said the chemicals posed little or no cancer risk to people at Camp Lejeune.
"The Marine Corps continues to reach out to anyone who lived on Camp Lejeune from 1957-1987 and encourages them to sign up for the Camp Lejeune Water Registry so that they can receive updates to the ongoing studies that the Marine Corps is funding and cooperating in," said 1st Lt. Brian Block at Marine headquarters.
"We look forward to the conclusion of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and National Research Council studies so that we can take the next appropriate step for our Marines and their family members."
The case is Snyder v. United States, 08-894.