Marine Corps says Camp Lejeune water was never tested – in violation of Corps own regulations

Died at the age of 9

The Marine Corps has repeatedly argued federal law didn’t regulate the cancer-causing pollutants that fouled the drinking water at Camp Lejeune until long after the contamination was discovered.

But the Corps’ own regulations, starting in 1963, required water testing at the North Carolina base and other Marine bases using a method that some say could have provided a warning about tainted water, according to documents and interviews…

The Marine Corps’ regulations mandated such testing annually, or every two years if water quality was “stable.”

But no record of CCE testing at Camp Lejeune can be found in the thousands of pages of documents detailing what some believe to be the worst drinking-water contamination in U.S. history…

To critics of the Marine Corps, the test was a lost opportunity to catch a public health disaster in its early years. Today, more than 185,000 people who drank, cooked and bathed in the polluted water from 1953 to 1987 have signed up for a health registry…

“They created these rules to protect their people,” said former Marine drill instructor Jerry Ensminger, who served at Lejeune. His 9-year-old daughter, Janey, conceived at the base, died of leukemia in 1985. “They didn’t have the discretion to ignore them.”

The Janey Ensminger Act, which provides health care to veterans and family exposed to Lejeune’s polluted water, was signed into law by President Barack Obama last year in the Oval Office as Ensminger looked on. Camp Lejeune again grabbed the political spotlight last week as Chuck Hagel, Obama’s nominee as defense secretary, said during his Senate confirmation hearing he was committed to getting answers about the polluted water at Lejeune.

Chemical contamination in drinking water at Camp Lejeune came from numerous sources, scientists say. They include a dry cleaner adjacent to the base and industrial solvents discarded by Marine personnel.

One of the worst sources of pollution was a fuel depot on base that may have leaked more than a million gallons of gasoline since the base opened in the 1940s, records show.

That our vaunted military avoided their own regulations comes as no surprise to anyone living near an old American military base.

There is a small civilian community next to the old bombing practice range at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico with a truly unique problem. Anyone who leaves the community or wishes to switch over to bottled pure water must do so via an authorized withdrawal regimen.

There were so many practice bombs dropped near their community going back in time to World War 2 that an underground plume of nitroglycerin has infiltrated their water supply for decades. If anyone stops drinking the water cold turkey they run the risk of dying from nitro withdrawal.

No one tested their water until someone did a study on their unique heart problems a few years ago. For decades, our military ignored responsibility in the way Congress has more recently adopted.

11 thoughts on “Marine Corps says Camp Lejeune water was never tested – in violation of Corps own regulations

  1. Malcolm Greenhill says:

    This is not a question of having tighter regulations. This is an example of the ‘tragedy of the commons’. If nobody has an incentive to harvest the long term value of their property they will ignore long term consequences. Sell off the military bases, including water rights, and you are on the way to eliminating water pollution and militarism at the same time.

      • Malcolm Greenhill says:

        Your avoiding the issue. Our government, at the federal, state, and local levels, is the single greatest polluter in the land, and as Eideard points out, the government does not even clean up its own garbage. It is just common sense that owners make better environmental guardians than renters. I’m a serial backpacker and spend more time in our national parks than most so I know that the national parks are not immune from abuse. Yes, I think we would be better served if naturalist organizations, such as the Audubon Society or Nature Conservancy, took over the management of our parks.

        • keaneo says:

          C’mon Malcolm. You’re guilty of the same oversimplifying as Luddites blaming scientists and engineers who make discoveries, build designs – then abused by governments or corporations.

          Thoughtful governments invented national parks. I’ve backpacked on hundreds of miles of trails funded by governments from the CCC days to modern times. Though I support a couple of local environmental organizations, they’re the last body I’d count on to organize the battles against regional forest fires.

  2. Malcolm Greenhill says:

    Keaneo, strange you mention forest fires. As you’re a backpacker I’m sure you’re aware that it was the National Park Service that almost completely destroyed Yellowstone National Park in the 1988 fire which was a direct result of the NPS policy of letting forests burn.

    • keaneo says:

      That’s what they got for acceding to the wishes of a whole range of fools, from the Sierra Club to the Colorado Chamber of Commerce.

    • keaneo says:

      And you’re begging the question. You want Friends of the Earth to coordinate a regional forest fire or someone from one of the federal services already setup to coordinate hot shots?

  3. Malcolm Greenhill says:

    Keaneo, that’s chutzpah! My original comment had to do with military bases and the tragedy of the commons. Without replying to a single point you side-tracked the argument to what you thought was an easy shot – the national parks. Well, as you have already admitted they are not an easy shot. The National Parks Service also screws up and when they do, they do it big-time.

    However, the real point at issue is whether government has the right incentives to prevent pollution. Presumably you and Eideard think it is just a matter of tinkering with the regulations, changing the management or enacting new laws. I believe the problem is more fundamental. I don’t have any problem with pollution in my front yard because I have an incentive to keep it out. The military have incentives to play with their bombs not to worry about the integrity of ground water supplies. Change the incentives and you solve the problem.

    • keaneo says:

      Dude, once again you’re the one stuck into 19th Century ideology. I’m confident Eid (as I) would rather rely on science rather than outdated historical belief systems. Whether it’s managed by government or not depends on the relationship of the problem to the whole nation or part. You’re still stuck with wanting a standing army for defense – without the responsibility of paying for it.

      The West has been despoiled more by ranchers, loggers and miners than anything any government did. Except including in those cooperating governments bought and paid for by corporate interests instead of a democratic will.

      The example of national parks is perfectly analogous to military bases. In economic terms. From Teddy Roosevelt to rejecting policies shoved into the park/forest services by enviro orgs which paid no heed to history or science – government enabled solutions which couldn’t be solved by ignoring them.

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