ATSDR report sheds light on extent of Lejeune water contaminants
A report released Friday by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry sheds new light on the extent and variety of chemical contaminants that found their way into the ground and drinking water of sites throughout Camp Lejeune.
The 300-page report analyzes more than 18 sites of contamination located throughout the base, compiling data from hundreds of source documents and records. Its findings indicate that hazardous substances from DDT and battery acid to diesel fueled leaked into the ground and seeped into the water through improper disposal practices, pipe leaks, and spills at these sites…..
The findings of ATSDR also seem to contradict claims by the Marine Corps that drinking wells contaminated with the organic solvents TCE and PCE were taken offline as soon as the contamination was discovered.
“The fact that the Hadnot Point WTP (water treatment plant) was substantially contaminated with PCE and TCE was well known to USMCB Camp Lejeune by May 1982; however, the Base did not initiate sampling of raw and finished water at the Hadnot Point WTP until early December 1984,” the report reads.
The document notes that a 1997 Public Health Analysis of Camp Lejeune water that downplayed the extent of the contamination and the risk to troops and other base residents exposed to the chemicals was taken off ATSDR’s website this September.
“Due in part to the ongoing historical reconstruction analyses, ATSDR has learned that communities serviced by the Holcomb Boulevard water-distribution system were exposed to contaminated water for a longer period than was used in the 1997 evaluation contained in the PHA,” reads the report. “Also, at the Camp Lejeune site, benzene was present in some water-supply wells that were shut down sometime prior to 1985, and this information was not included in the 1997 PHA.”
One contamination site, used for the storing, handling and dispensing of pesticides, was later turned into a children’s daycare center, according to the report. Wastes including battery acid, oil and lubricants at a vehicle maintenance site were disposed of by pouring them into shallow holes in the ground.
At the Hadnot Point Fuel Farm, where pipe leaks led to water contamination with the carcinogen benzene, the report estimates that up to 1.1 million gallons of fuel may have leaked into the soil over decades prior to 1987.
Ultimately, the report finds that TCE, a probable human carcinogen, occurs at 13 of the 18 contamination sites; benzene occurs at 10; PCE at 8; and vinyl chloride at six sites. At many sites on base, various chemical contaminants remain in the soil.
ATSDR is currently carrying out a battery of studies and surveys to determine the effect exposure to the contaminated drinking water had on the hundreds of thousands of Camp Lejeune residents who drank it between the 1950s and 1980s.
More than 160,000 former residents have added their names to the Camp Lejeune drinking water registry, and thousands, including a cluster of over 60 victims of male breast cancer, believe the water is to blame for diseases including lung and kidney cancer, leukemia, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.