U.S. Water News Online
RALEIGH, N.C. -- A Michigan congressman wants further study
of the health effects of contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, saying
new science ``raises serious concerns'' about a study that concluded
adults who drank the water are not at risk for illnesses.
Most Marine families who were stationed at Camp Lejeune between
the late 1960s and the 1980s don't know they were exposed to toxic
chemicals, said U.S. Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Mich. He said hundreds
of people who were stationed at the base since the 1960s are
reporting diseases and cancer.
``We know that for years these people were provided water with
terribly high levels of dangerous chemicals,'' Dingell said in a news
release. ``We owe the Marine families who lived on this base more
than a quick glance over the facts to determine if anyone was hurt
from drinking the tap water.''
Former base residents contend Marine Corps leaders knew for years
that water wells had been contaminated and did nothing about it. They
say families have suffered health problems that will last a lifetime.
Water monitoring showed tap water provided to military families
contained at least five toxic volatile organic compounds from a dry
cleaner and shop solvents that are known to cause cancer in humans,
including childhood leukemia.
Dingell questions the Marines' use of a 1997 study that concluded
that adults who consumed the contaminated water were not likely to
get sick. New scientific information has shown some of the
contaminants in the water to be more dangerous than previously
thought, Dingell said.
The 1997 study also assumed families at Camp Lejeune only turned
on their water taps four out of seven days a week and that the
longest anyone lived at the base in Jacksonville was three years,
said Dingell, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Energy
The committee next will conduct a hearing on a Defense Department
request to exempt the military from certain environmental laws. Camp
Lejeune will be used as an example of the military's history of
contamination and slow cleanup, committee spokeswoman Jodi Bennett
Jerry Ensminger, a retired Marine who lived at Lejeune at various
times during his 24-year military career, is scheduled to testify at
Ensminger's daughter was 9 when she died of leukemia in 1985, he
said. She was conceived at the base and the family lived at the base
for the first trimester in the mid-1970s, Ensminger said. He believes
his daughter's exposure to contamination at Lejeune caused her death.
Ensminger said he is looking forward to the hearing because the
military has ``stonewalled'' his attempts to learn more about the
contamination. ``I'm finally getting some high-level attention and
it's finally getting the attention that it deserves,'' he said. ``The
Marine Corps needs to live up to their motto and not run from it --
'Semper Fidelis,' which is Latin for 'always faithful.'''
A Marine Corps spokesman could not be reached for comment on
The federal Agency of Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which
conducted the 1997 report, is planning a follow-up epidemiological
study on the Lejeune water effects.
But Dingell said that study is too narrow in scope, because it
would focus only on mothers who were pregnant while living on the
base between 1968-1985. An estimated total of 50,000 to 200,000
people may have been exposed to the contaminated water, he said.
A five-member panel of military and environmental representatives
already is studying decisions made between 1980 and 1985 that relate
to the closing of several contaminated wells at Lejeune.
Panel chairman Ronald C. Packard has said the purpose of the
review is to determine whether military officials made appropriate
decisions based on the information available to them.
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