Camp Lejeune Toxic Water: Questions Remain Unanswered

Victims of <"">Camp Lejeune’s tainted water are still looking for answers. According to a report from the Star News, some ex-Marines and former Camp Lejeune residents have accused the Marine Corps of deliberately withholding crucial information and misleading investigators about the contamination.

As we’ve reported previously, Marines who served at Camp Lejeune have for years blamed their families’ cancers and other ailments on tainted tap water. The contamination occurred from the 1950s through the 1980s, and health officials believe as many as 1 million people may have been exposed to the toxins before the wells that supplied the tainted water were closed two decades ago. The Camp Lejeune catastrophe represents the worst contamination of a public water system in United States history, according to scientists who testified before Congress.

According to the Star News, the Marine Corps has acknowledged the contamination that occurred at Camp Lejeune, and thanks to an order from Congress, it has taken steps to inform the hundreds of thousands potentially affected. But critics of the Marine Corps say it still has not come clean about the Camp Lejeune contamination. They say the contamination was far more widespread than the Marine Corps has admitted, and accuse the leadership at the base of ignoring repeated warnings about hazardous drinking water for years before it took action.

Investigations into the Camp Lejeune contamination have focused on four contaminants: trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), benzene and vinyl chloride (VC), the Star News said. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists all four as known or suspected carcinogens, meaning they can cause cancer in humans. According to the Star News, activists have uncovered a history of fuel leaking from underground tanks at Hadnot Point Fuel Farm, where as much as 1.1 million gallons of fuel may have spilled.

The Marine Corps says the first clear evidence of contamination in drinking-water wells at Camp Lejeune came in 1984. At that time, it says it promptly closed down the affected wells.

But according to Star News, activists claim the Marines should have acted sooner because volatile organic compounds were detected in water systems in 1980:

“Documents posted on the “Forgotten” website show repeated warnings from 1980 onward, first from Army chemists and later from employees with a private company hired to analyze the water. One, written by U.S. Army Lab Services Chief William Neal in 1981, reads, “Water highly contaminated with other chlorinated hydrocarbons (solvents)!”

Camp Lejeune officials ordered testing of water systems located near a landfill in the lightly populated Rifle Range area in 1980. Water-supply wells at Hadnot Point and Tarawa Terrace, where thousands lived and worked, were not tested until 1984.”

The Marine Corps claims the testing wasn’t done sooner because the source of contamination hadn’t been identified.

Advocates for victims of Camp Lejeune’s toxic water say they support legal actions against the Marine Corps as a way to find the answers it seems unwilling to provide. As we reported last month, a federal judge recently refused for a second time the U.S. government’s motion to dismiss a Camp Lejeune toxic water lawsuit. That’s good news for other victims who may be considering their own lawsuits.

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