Camp Lejeune

Written by John C Bird, P.G., Vice President, EnviroForensics

Over twenty years, the contaminated water supply at Camp Lejeune has been a hot topic. From 1957 to 1987, more than 75,000 Marines and their families were allegedly exposed to tap water contaminated with the toxic chemicals trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE).

In 1984, the results of a laboratory analysis of drinking water indicated a concentration of 1,400 parts per billion (ppb) of TCE collected from a supply well on base. The federal government eventually set a maximum safe level for TCE in drinking water at 5 ppb.

Health officials and lawmakers have alleged that the Defense Department has delayed disclosure of important documents during investigations into the health impact of water contaminated by a dry cleaner adjacent to Camp Lejeune and by the base’s past industrial activities. Now adding to the distress of the Marines and their families is the Federal Government’s withdrawal of the decade-old report which minimized the cancer risk from the water contamination because of omissions and scientific inaccuracy.

According to the Associated Press, William Cibulas of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry said Tuesday the Agency, “We can no longer stand behind the accuracy of the information in that document.”

Apparently, health officials now are saying that as many as 1 million people may have been exposed to water toxins from the 1950s to the 1987 closing of the contaminated wells. There are 853 pending legal claims by people who lived at the Marine base, both military and civilians, said Pat Leonard, director of the Navy’s Office of The Judge Advocate General Claims, Investigation and Tort Litigation.

According to the Associated Press, the Marines, who became known as “poisoned patriots” and their advocates never believed the report’s conclusions. Their families have filed claims for $33.8 billion in damages. A new ATSDR study continues on whether the poisoned patriots and their families might have been harmed.