U.S. Water News Online
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Marine commandant here has said an
independent panel will review events at Camp Lejeune between 1980 and
1985 when thousands of base residents were allowed to drink
The wells have been shut down, but former residents of the largest
Marine base in the East say they or their families have suffered
health problems that will last a lifetime. Some also were concerned
that Marine Corps leaders knew about the contamination earlier and
did nothing about it.
``We are deeply concerned about the health issues raised by
members of our Marine Corps family and are working diligently to
ensure that anyone affected during this period and beyond is well
cared for,'' Gen. Mike Hagee said in a written statement.
``Marines take care of each other on the battlefield and in
garrison and this case is no different.''
Hagee's statement referred to thousands of former Marines and
their families who lived in base housing and used the water before
the wells were closed.
A former base resident who believes her medical problems resulted
from water exposure, said the study was ``the first step in getting
light shed on this catastrophe.''
Terry Fristoe Dyer, 47, who lived at Lejeune when her father was
an elementary school principal on the base, said she thinks the
review will open up much more information than former residents have
`` The fact that they're opening themselves to this shows that
their integrity is not completely gone,'' she said.
Hagee said the panel will gather facts so Marines and family
members can have information that could help them. He said formation
of the panel was prompted by ``continued questions from interested
families and other parties.''
Wells were contaminated with volatile organic compounds such as
machine shop and dry cleaning solvents that were dumped in areas
where they could reach the well water. All affected wells were closed
The Marine Corps has supported a study by the independent Agency
for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to determine if there's a
link between the water and some childhood illnesses that have been
Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., who called for an expanded study earlier
this month, called the review panel a good start.
``It has been more than 20 years since the Marines first became
aware of this contamination,'' said Jeffords, ranking member of the
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
``I hope the Marines take the next step and immediately notify all
those who may have been exposed to the highly contaminated drinking
Jeffords said as many as 200,000 people who lived in base housing
could have been affected and that congressional hearings on the issue
Both of North Carolina's senators welcomed the new review.
Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., wants to be sure the agency's funds
are sufficient for its study while the Marines conduct their own
because finding health effects from the contamination is an urgent
priority, said spokesman Brian Nick.
Dole sent questions to the Marine Corps earlier this month and is
``very pleased that they're going to be convening this panel,'' Nick
``This is something that definitely needs to be looked farther
into,'' he said. ``There are very serious concerns that not only
North Carolina residents but people living around the country have.''
Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., also welcomed the study, said spokesman
``He's been working a long time with families in North Carolina
and other parts of the country to get more information and get to the
bottom of this.''
Hagee said the review panel will be comprised of three private
sector professionals with experience in environmental, engineering
and military issues. Information on who sits on the panel wasn't
``The circumstances surrounding the Camp Lejeune water
contamination issue involve numerous decisions and documents that
span more than 20 years,'' he said.
The panel members have not been selected, but the process is under
way, said Maj. Nat Fahy at the corps headquarters. The report will be
submitted to the commandant by Sept. 1.
``After reviewing the report, I will make every effort to conclude
this matter in a way that is satisfactory to our Marines, their
families and the general public,'' Hagee said.
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