Tens of thousands of U.S. Marines and their family members may soon be eligible for federal health care after new information shows that water at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune was contaminated as far back as 1953, four years that previously thought.
According to an AP report this week, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has informed the Dept. of Veterans Affairs that new computer models show that drinking water in the Hadnot Point area of Camp Lejeune was unfit for human consumption as far back as 1953. Now, more than a million Marines and their family members were likely exposed to toxic drinking water while they lived on base.
The Hadnot Point water system provided drinking water for the largest residential areas at Camp Lejeune. Most of the Marines living on base as well as the Naval Hospital, and barracks for unmarried Marines officers were served by the water from Hadnot Point. The water became contaminated decades ago from leaking fuel tanks and dry cleaning solvents found in the groundwater at Camp Lejeune. The water has been contaminated with toxins like benzene and other volatile organic compounds. More than a million gallons of fuel may have been leaked from underground storage tanks at Camp Lejeune.
For nearly as long as the water has been contaminated, military families and soldiers living at Camp Lejeune suspected that the drinking water was responsible for any number of health problems, including cancer. There have been at least 82 Marines men that have been diagnosed with breast cancer after living at Camp Lejeune.
The Marines became aware of this contamination in the early 1980s but only started to close some drinking water wells at Camp Lejeune later that decade. Still, many soldiers and their family members who are left dealing with the health complications caused by the tainted drinking water on base believe the military ignored calls to test groundwater and were negligent in their response to learning of the contamination and for allowing so many people over such a long period of time to be exposed to the tainted drinking water.
Last year, President Barack Obama signed a law that granted federal health care to hundreds of thousands of Marines veterans and their families who were affected by the poisoned water at Camp Lejeune. Based on the new federal evidence that’s come to light recently, as many as 55,000 more Marines and their families could be eligible for those same benefits.