Skip to comments.Committee to examine Camp Lejeune case (MARINES)
Posted on 11/11/2007 6:53:02 PM PST by Dubya
Between 1957 and 1987, as many as 1 million Marines, their families and on-base civilians drank and washed, bathed and played in water contaminated with dry-cleaning fluids and industrial solvents at levels as high as 40 times today's safe standard.
But more than 25 years since the contamination was discovered, scientific proof remains elusive as to whether the cornucopia of pollutants caused health problems in those who were exposed.
Thursday, a 14-member committee from the National Research Council, the operational arm of the National Academies, will visit Jacksonville for a "ground-truthing" session. The committee is looking into potential adverse health effects tied to the tainted tap water.
Committee Chairman David Savitz, an epidemiologist at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, said coming to Southeastern North Carolina allows the committee members to get a better feel for what happened.
"A number of us thought it was important to see the physical reality of the place and to hopefully better understand the nature of the contamination," he said. "It also offers us the opportunity to hear from people, in the open, who might not have been able to make it to Washington."
Savitz added that one of the challenges of this particular investigation is the time that's passed since the contamination occurred.
"When you're doing a study that many years after the fact, it makes it that much harder," he said. "For example, there's no exposure to measure. We have to reconstruct that exposure."
The congressionally mandated study began in April and is scheduled to wrap up late next year.
Many former residents believe there is more than just a casual connection between the contamination and their health problems, and nearly 900 have already filed suit against the Pentagon.
That number could increase significantly if researchers draw a direct connection between the contaminated water and some of the ailments.
The Marines have said they followed environmental and health regulations in effect at the time and are awaiting results this spring of the first scientific study on the possible health effects of the contaminated water.
That study, by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in Atlanta, is looking at children born at Lejeune during the time the contaminated wells were in operation.
Savitz said the NRC study would incorporate some of the ATSDR's work. It also will look ahead to see where new medical studies should focus, such as on specific ailments or certain age groups that could have been particularly susceptible to the contaminants.
Although the study is sponsored by the Pentagon, Savitz dismissed concerns that the committee's research or findings could be influenced by the military.
"I am very comfortable in saying that absolutely there is no biasing effect with the sponsorship of these projects," he said.
Hugh Overholt, a New Bern lawyer and former judge advocate general of the Army who has investigated numerous contamination cases at military bases, but not Camp Lejeune, agreed.
"It's going to be a government-sponsored study anyway, whether it's the Pentagon or someone else," he said. "I don't read anything into that."
While the medical studies inch forward, pressure is mounting on the Marines to notify people who might have been exposed to the contaminated water.
The Marines have argued that they've already done that, stating that they've had a robust outreach effort since 1984 that has included briefings and stories in local and national media outlets.
But many officials are arguing for a more pro-active approach, especially as the scope of the potential problem has become more apparent.
Leading the charge for notification has been U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., who has pushed an amendment ordering the Pentagon to do it.
"We cannot correct a past mistake by avoiding the fact that this contamination occurred," she said in a statement last week. "We are told that the Corps has known of this contamination since 1980, and it took five years merely to close most of these wells. Twenty-plus years have passed since then. Enough is enough.
"Notifying these Marines, their families and civilian employees is a necessary first step and is the right thing to do."
Gareth McGrath: 343-2384
Environmental whackos running amuck on our military bases. Somebody needs to send this to Rush. He’d have some choice words about this.
Mmm...I was there as a kid twice in that period, totalling about 4 years.
I had my son there in 1986..
Sorry sparky, but both of my Marine cousins contracted cancer before they were 30. 4 year hitch there. This article has my attention.
I lived in Tarawa Terrace in the late fifties and mid sixties while my Dad was in the Marines.
I don't have any ill effects that I'm aware of, but have had trouble locating any classmates lately.
Here is a link to a website managed by the daughters of the principal of the elementary school I attended at Tarawa Terrace:
There's something just a little disconcerting in that statement.
Sure. It's not as if the Marines deserve the same level of protection as any other citizen. I mean, it was long enough ago that most of 'em aren't even Marines any more. Toss 'em aside.
To me, and especially on Veterans' Day, "support the troops" means supporting the serviceman. If his leaders, uniformed or civilian, failed him, they should be held to account.
We're talking about our sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers who willingly place themselves in harm's way for our sake. Giving them an essential like water that is not up to the standard we expect for the rest of us is a betrayal.
Maybe that means tracing the extent of the plume into the water table. Then they could determine which wells were in the plume. They seem to have a rough idea. I don’t know how the water distribution system in Tarawa Terrace was interlinked. I recall there being at least one water tower in the area, which implies everyone was drinking the same concentration of the contaminant, regardless of their position with respect to the toxic plume. I’ll have to ask my Mom if the water was from the tap tasted OK or if we drank lots of bottled water.
Hardly anyone drank bottled water in that time frame.
Just checked, water tasted good in Tarawa Terrace, at least
in the housing we occupied.
I was stationed at Camp Lejeune during that period and still live here. What people fail to recognize is that the “cataminated” water met the guidelines during that time. Additionally, during that period we used dry cleaning solvent to clean weapons. Every Armory had open vats of dry cleaning solvent. I cannot count the number of times that I was up to my elbows in that fluid scrubing some weapon part. While I recognize that there are different levels of sensitivety, if dry cleaning solvent is so dangerous most of us from that era would be dead by now.
Did your wife and children drink any of this water?