The latest Camp Lejeune news reports and media investigations:
Veterans exposed to contaminated water at Marine base to receive disability benefits
The Huffington Post, January 13, 2017
The Obama administration has agreed to provide disability benefits to military veterans exposed to contaminated drinking water while at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, according to an official notice published on Thursday. Veterans, former reservists and former National Guard members who served for at least 30 days at the U.S. Marine Corps Base from 1953 to 1987 and have been diagnosed with one of eight diseases are eligible, according to the document published in the Federal Register, the government’s official journal. The Associated Press, which first reported the story, said the estimated cost to taxpayers of the added benefits would total $2.2 billion over five years. The additional payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs would start in March and go to veterans who developed adult leukemia, aplastic anemia, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Parkinson’s disease, the notice said. The department has estimated that up to 900,000 service members were potentially exposed to the tainted water at the base, the AP reported.
Contaminants included the volatile organic compounds trichloroethylene, perchloroethylene, benzene and vinyl chloride.
Learn More: VA Finalizes Presumptive Diseases Rule for Camp Lejeune Toxic Water
Camp Lejeune widow keeps fighting V.A. for her husband and benefits
WFLA, October 27, 2016
Tara Craver of Avon Park is becoming a familiar site at busy intersections outside V.A. facilities. She protests what she believes is unfair V.A. treatment of marines and their families. “They killed my husband,” said Tara. Her husband Karle was a marine, stationed at Camp Lejeune in the 70’s. His is one of the many faces of Camp Lejeune, the site of one of the largest mass contaminations in American history. From 1953 to 1987, an estimated 750,000 marines, their families as well as base employees were exposed to cancer causing chemicals in their drinking water. “They didn’t contaminate themselves, the government did and they kept it hid for two or three decades. They kept it hid,” added Tara. Doctors diagnosed Karle with esophageal cancer in January 2014. He died 10 weeks later. Karle passed well before Tara heard that the V.A. rejected his claim that his cancer was connected to Camp Lejeune. An expert the V.A. relied on wrote there was a less than 50/50 probability contaminated water caused Karle’s cancer. That doctor is an internist in California. Karle’s personal board certified oncologist wrote there was at least a 50/50 chance or better it did. Its website states the V.A. provides cost-free health care for certain conditions, including esophageal cancer, to veterans who served at least 30 days of active duty at Camp Lejeune. That’s as much responsibility as it is willing to shoulder in this case. “I’ve lost my husband, I’ve lost my home, I will not lose my dignity,” she explained. So Tara wages her lonely struggle at busy intersections, hoping the V.A. hears her message. “That they accept what they have done to these families and these veterans and to love their veterans like their veterans love their country,” Tara said.
VA seeks feedback on Camp Lejeune toxic water claims ruling
MarineTimes, September 9, 2016
The Veterans Affairs Department on Friday moved a step closer to granting presumptive status for eight diseases associated with contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. VA officials on Friday opened the public comments period required to finalize the proposed regulation, according to an interim ruling published in the Federal Register. According to the announcement, the rule would designate the illnesses as service-connected and therefore eligible for disability compensation. Former troops, reserve and National Guard members who served at Camp Lejeune for no fewer than 30 days between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987, could be eligible if they have one of the eight following conditions: kidney cancer, liver cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, adult leukemia, multiple myeloma, Parkinson’s disease, aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes, or bladder cancer. The days of service would not have to be consecutive, according to the announcement. Nearly 1 million people — including troops, family members and civilian employees — were exposed to volatile organic chemicals and other cancer-causing agents in the base’s drinking water system from the 1950s through the 1980s. The contamination at the massive Marine Corps base was caused by the infiltration of runoff from dry cleaning companies, leaking under ground storage tanks and industrial spills near two water treatment facilities that supplied drinking water to the base’s housing complexes and barracks. The VA provides health care or reimbursement for related medical costs to affected veterans or family members with 15 illnesses known to be caused by chemical exposure, but it has not granted service connection for any conditions until now. Interested parties have until Oct. 11 to weigh in on the proposed rule via www.regulations.gov. The comment period is shorter than the usual 60 days, the VA noted, because at least 30 veterans have terminal illnesses that would qualify for compensation but may not live to see the ruling enacted if the comment period was extended. According to the proposed rule, claims received after the publication of the final rule and any pending claims that meet the criteria will be approved. Claimants who previously filed and were denied must file a new claim. North Carolina’s senators, Republicans Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, described the announcement as a “relief to see movement” in the effort to bring justice to affected troops and family members. “Now we begin the process of providing meaningful feedback to the VA about the details of the proposed program,” Tillis said. “I hope that the comment period will be substantive but swift.”
Marine’s toughest fight: getting compensated for exposure to Camp Lejeune’s toxic water
Las Vegas Review-Journal, August 22, 2016
There’s no doubt in Stanley Furrow’s mind that his health problems and those of his wife, children and grandson come from drinking contaminated water and bathing in it years ago when he served in the Marine Corps at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. They all have classic symptoms, according to the EPA, of people who have consumed water tainted with a witch’s brew of benzene, solvents and compounds with long names such as perchloroethylene, trichlorethylene and vinyl chloride. That is what was leaking into the camp’s water supply when Furrow, a Vietnam War vet, and his wife, Linda, lived there in the early 1970s. He blames his exposure for the migraine headaches and neurological maladies he’s suffered from for years. They believe it also explains why Linda had miscarriages; their son was born with only three fingers on his left hand; their daughter has battled cysts and tumors on her head all her life; and their 13-year-old grandson, Joseph, was born with twisted legs. “We were living right outside the gate where the water was bad,” Stanley Furrow said during one of several interviews this month at the family’s east Las Vegas home. “I was bringing water home at that time. But I also had to bathe in our barracks” after physical training and maneuvers, he said. “I took showers there. My eyes, and ears and throat and nose was all being affected. Plus I was drinking the water.” Between 1952 and 1987, nearly 1 million Marines, sailors, civilian employees and military family members unknowingly drank, cooked with and bathed in contaminated water while living or working at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. A National Academies report in 2009 found that the camp’s water supply was tainted by industrial solvents that resulted from spills and improper disposal practices by a dry cleaner outside the base. Some contaminants came from leaking underground storage tanks on the base, it said. Three years later, President Barack Obama signed into law the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012. While it offered hope for the Furrows and other military families that they would receive disability compensation, the Department of Veterans Affairs repeatedly has denied Stanley’s claims. The stated reason: lack of documentation because his health records were lost some 30 years ago. Now he is banking that he will get the benefit of the doubt for what’s called “presumptive disability status” — a provision of the act that presumes that certain conditions were caused by factors connected to the veteran’s military service. But that, too, appears out of reach, at least for now, because the VA is in the midst of developing rules for applying the provision. That leaves Furrow in a medical Catch-22, though April 11 “Progress Notes” by medical personnel at the North Las Vegas VA Medical Center’s mental health facility acknowledged that “it is possible that there might be some connection” to the Camp Lejeune contamination. In response to a Review-Journal query, a Veterans Benefits Administration official wrote Friday, “We are looking into Mr. Furrow’s claims.” “VA is working on regulations that would establish presumptive service-connection for certain illnesses related to exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, making it easier for affected veterans to receive VA disability compensation for these conditions,” said Russell S. Archey, records management officer at the VA Regional Office in Reno. “While VA cannot grant any benefit claims based on the proposed presumption of service connection … until it issues its final regulations, it encourages veterans who have a record of service at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987,” to file a disability compensation claim. The Furrows have been there and done that. Since 2009, they have been denied four times, “and we’re working on the fifth (claim),” Linda Furrow said. “Every time we filed one it was sent back to us for more information. They want more documentation to prove the headaches, the migraines, the miscarriages that I had, the problems he’s having with his memory loss. His concentration. His passing out. His heart attack. This list goes on and on and on,” she said. Stanley Furrow said he feels “like they lied to us, all the way up ‘til now. From Ronald Reagan on up. We received no apologies for what they did. We received nothing from the government. “I suffered all these years believing that it was my fault.” Their daughter, Jolie Furrow, 32, who was born after the family moved away from Camp Lejeune, said she also has had to deal with the effects of her parents’ exposure to the tainted water, including abnormal growths on her skull, including one that was removed from behind her ear. “I have a cyst on my head, cysts on my ovaries, I have hearing loss on both sides.” Stanley Furrow said the pattern of maladies that afflict his family make it clear that the water was to blame, and he wonders why the government he served isn’t stepping up to make things as right as they can be. “Whose fault is it then? It wasn’t mine that we were poisoned,” he said. “It’s the government’s and the Marines at Camp Lejeune that knew about it. But yet they did nothing either. The EPA did nothing. Somebody has to pay for what was done to us.” Said Jolie Furrow: “I just think it’s crazy. Why would you treat someone who served their country this way?”
U.S. Senators push for automatic disability status for poisoned vets
wwaytv3.com, August 18, 2016
Today, Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis wrote a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donavan urging the Department of Veterans Affairs to grant presumptive disability status to veterans suffering from diseases caused by poisoned water at Camp Lejeune, including Parkinson’s Disease, Bladder Cancer and Leukemia, among others. It was one year ago, August of 2015, that the Department of Veterans Affairs first announced those victims would receive disability benefits. “While affected veterans are receiving health care, many have lost their homes and their ability to work and financially support themselves because of the disabilities caused by the illnesses they developed from toxic exposure,” the Senators wrote. “Many more are teetering on the brink of losing their homes and bankruptcy. This is not just a North Carolina problem; this is a national problem.”
Tainted water at Camp Lejeune: Veteran fights for disability
military.com, August 4, 2016
On the one hand, the Department of Veterans Affairs attributes the lung disease that has sickened Terrence Mulligan to the contaminated tap water the former Marine drank while stationed at Camp Lejeune in the 1970s. So the VA provides his medical treatment, which includes about a dozen medications, doctor appointments, an oxygen tank and a likely lung transplant. On the other hand, the VA has told Mulligan that he shouldn’t expect the VA to compensate him anytime soon for his inability to work. The result: The 59-year-old said he struggles to pay his bills and could eventually lose the home where he and his wife have lived for 10 years. “I’ve been trying this for years, filling out the paperwork, sending it off, getting a rejection,” Mulligan said this week, just days after the VA rejected his latest request. “You almost get the sense they’re waiting for more people to die off.” Mulligan’s plight is one faced by thousands of Marine Corps veterans who were stationed at Camp Lejeune between 1957 and 1987. In 1999, the Corps started to inform Camp Lejeune Marines that the water used at the base was contaminated with volatile organic compounds such as trichloroethylene (TCE), a metal degreaser, and perchloroethylene (PCE), a dry cleaning agent. Critics say the Marines resisted owning up to the contamination for years. “The Marine Corps has done everything in their power to shirk their responsibility to people exposed at Camp Lejeune,” said Jerry Ensminger, a retired master-sergeant and founder of The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten, which advocates for Lejeune Marines. “The VA, they’ve had to be brought to bear by dragging them in.” Late last year, VA Secretary Robert McDonald acknowledged that the evidence exists to start disability compensation for veterans such as Mulligan. “The water at Camp Lejeune was a hidden hazard, and it is only years later that we know how dangerous it was,” said Secretary McDonald. But the VA told the Stars and Stripes website in December that it will be at least a year before it writes and approves regulations needed before the disability program can start. It means more delays for people who have long suffered from the tainted water. In 2012, President Obama signed a law named after Ensminger’s daughter, who died of childhood leukemia. The VA released a list of 15 diseases that the VA will treat for any Marine who lived at Lejeune for 30 days or more. They include cancers of the esophagus, breast, lung, kidney, bladder and leukemia; multiple myeloma and scleroderma, female infertility, miscarriage and neuro-behavioral problems. Nationally, nearly 245,700 people have registered with the Marines as former residents of Camp Lejeune. That includes 1,459 in New Hampshire, according to the Marine Corps website. “I never thought twice about using it or drinking it,” Mulligan said about the water he drank at Lejeune for about 1 1/2 years. Since leaving the Marines, he worked in construction and as an X-ray technician. He was a long distance runner and finished one marathon. But about eight years ago, doctors diagnosed him with scleroderma in his lungs, one of the diseases the VA attributes to Camp Lejuene water. Mulligan said he battles lupus, arthritis, low platelet counts, and Reynaud’s disease, all auto-immune problems caused by the scleroderma. He has also battled bill collectors. Unable to work for eight years, he filed for bankruptcy five years ago, along with his wife. He expects to come out of bankruptcy in about a year, he said. He owes about $6,000 in unpaid mortgage payments, he said, and worries that his bank will eventually come after him. He said he wouldn’t be able to pay it. Mulligan has contacted U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who wrote him last month to say she was sorry that the VA could not approve his claim at the time. In a statement to the New Hampshire Union Leader, Ayotte’s office said she is committed to ensuring veterans received the care and benefits they’ve earned. “I am pressing the VA to resolve the issue that is currently affecting Mr. Mulligan, and will not rest until he receives the care and benefits that are owed to him,” the Republican said in an emailed statement. Another six constituents have contacted Ayotte about Camp Lejeune water, her office said. Mulligan lives on Social Security disability, which provides about $1,640 a month. His wife, Linda, retired from her job as a school teacher earlier this year to care for him. He said a VA disability check would provide about $3,000 a month. “They should put me on disability,” he said. “They should accept the fact they poisoned us.”
Why won’t the VA help this dying vet?
komonews.com, June 14, 2016
A local (Seattle, WA) veteran is wasting away from a disease that will eventually take his life. It’s a condition the Veteran’s Administration now “presumes” is connected to his military service. So why then is the VA refusing to help him and his family? As part of an on-going series highlighting failures by the VA the KOMO Investigators looked into the case of Alvin Spike George. We found that the VA has already admitted that the drinking water at Marine base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where George served, was contaminated and linked to several diseases. Despite that the VA has twice denied benefits for George, and he’s now running out of time. Simply walking across the room is a laborious and painstaking exercise for George. Talking is also sometimes difficult. Even breathing can be a struggle. Doctors’ reports state George has diffuse systemic scleroderma, which means his immune system is attacking his body both inside and out. It’s caused his skin to thicken and tighten, scarred his lungs, and it prevents his entire G-I tract from working correctly. In a halting voice George describes his battle keeping weight on, “107.5 was the lowest; today I weight in at 109.6.” He’s lost so much body fat, his stomach can’t process nutrition. Most recently, the fingers on his left hand have stopped working. George’s military records verify he was in the Marine Corps from 1984 to 1988, with the vast majority of his enlistment spent living and working at Camp LeJeune. A federal Toxic Substances Agency map of the base show numerous federal clean-up sites interspersed in and around several well heads which provide drinking water for the base. Federal reports now confirm that from 1953 to 1987 the drinking water at the North Carolina base was contaminated with trichlorethylene, tetrachloroethylene and other contaminants known to cause cancer and other serious diseases – including scleroderma. Diseases that may take years to develop. George spent the past 20-plus years as a King County corrections officer. Wanting to provide for his wife, Faye, and their 7-year-old daughter, Annemarie, he kept working the last several years despite increasing pain and debility. He describes failing to qualify with his service weapon. “I told the weapons instructor, ‘I can’t pull the trigger any more.’ ” George becomes tearful at what scleroderma has taken from him, “it’s my disease that’s taken over my body.” George kept losing weight, becoming even weaker, until finally this past January he was forced to admit that he couldn’t do the job. As he pats his very thin bicep he shakes his head and says, “all skin and bone.” Knowing his disease was progressive George began applying to the VA for disability and health benefits three years ago. That was after President Obama signed a new bill in 2012 authorizing health benefits for all veterans who served at Camp LeJeune from 1953 to 1987 and had one of 15 diseases – including scleroderma. But records show the VA twice denied disability benefits for George saying there was no evidence it was service connected. “Terrible,” says friend and King County corrections colleague Chris Brown. “No one deserves the treatment he’s gotten.” Brown and other colleagues have helped the George family, from pitching in with home maintenance and donating sick leave, to helping him file another appeal to the VA. While the VA denied disability benefits it also denied George health benefits, saying that since he was working, he made too much money to qualify. The family has now paid thousands out of pocket for numerous surgeries and treatment. “Totally devastated,” says George. “What am I gonna do?” Now he can’t work, his county benefits are running out. Faye George works 12-plus hours a day to keep her new restaurant and the family afloat, though she’d rather spend the time with her husband. “We don’t know how long he’s going to live.” The day after our interview George was back in the hospital, in intensive care and underwent two emergency surgeries. Chris Brown: “I feel personally they’re waiting for him to die, and other veterans to die, before they step up.” Brown thinks the VA delays are just about saving money. December 2015 the VA Secretary announced he’s changing the regulations so Camp LeJeune vets who get sick with certain illnesses will automatically qualify for disability benefits. When we asked the VA about George, a spokesman told us he would likely be covered but that the feds won’t pay any disability until the rules are finalized. And that could take a minimum of another year. More than likely too late to help George.
Camp Lejeune Marine reservist suffering after exposure to tainted water
WNCN, May 10, 2016
Like thousands of other former Marines who served at Camp Lejeune, Bob Miranda-Boulay suffers a long list of serious and life-threatening illnesses that he attributes to the toxic water that tainted wells at that training base in North Carolina over a period of 34 years. “This was the Marine Corps that did this to us,” Boulay said. Boulay insists he enlisted out of patriotism, but now feels betrayed by the Corps. “I wanted to make a difference,” Bouley said. “I love my country and I wanted to do the right thing. I wanted to be a Marine.” Boulay says he was an amateur boxer in perfect health prior to his two months of infantry training at Camp Lejeune. About 30 years later he now suffers from liver and kidney disease and has survived a brain tumor. He takes a dozen medications to make it through the day and activated a pacemaker at bedtime to keep from dying in his sleep. For years Boulay’s various maladies puzzled doctors who at one point chalked up his troubles to Lyme Disease. Now, Boulay’s doctor attributes his illness to the chemical-laced drinking water he consumed during training at Lejeune. … Boulay wore the same uniform, crawled through the same mud and drank the same tainted water at Camp Lejeune as regular Marines, but doesn’t qualify for any benefits under the Camp Lejeune Family Act of 2012 because he was a Marine Reservist who was never called up for active duty. “I don’t count,” Boulay said. And he’s not alone. When Boulay trained at Lejeune in 1985 there were 800-900 other reservists there according to the best estimates of the Marine Corps. If you multiply that number for the recognized duration of the contamination problem from 1953-1987, as many as 30,000 Marine Reservists may have suffered the same kind of exposure to benzene, TCE, vinyl chloride and other cancer-causing chemicals in the drinking water. Due to a quirk in the law none of those former Marine Reservists qualifies for VA benefits unless they were later called up for active duty. “That’s what it boils down to,” said Boulay. “And probably half of them have passed away by now, so they have no voice.” There is an effort in Congress spearheaded by Pinellas Republican Congressman Gus Bilirakis to set things right. Bilirakis introduced House Resolution 3954 last year to included Marine Reservists in the VA benefits awarded to Marines exposed to the poison water at Camp Lejeune. But that measure remains stalled in a House committee handling veteran’s affairs. Meanwhile, Boulay has been waging his own private struggle with the VA for three years to gain benefits. … He’s enlisted the help of Congressmen Bilirakis Nugent without success. After President Obama signed the Camp Lejeune Act in 2012, Boulay sent nearly a thousand medical records to the VA in the hope of gaining benefits. In a response letter last year, the VA told Boulay 16 times that it conceded his exposure to the toxic drinking water at Camp Lejuene. And 16 times the VA also denied any link between that toxic exposure and his current medical conditions. Despite that denial of benefits Boulay says he’s not about to quit. … The USMC, VA, and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry now concede that underground fuel spills, leaking dry cleaning solvents and other cancer causing chemicals that contaminated the base drinking wells poisoned thousands of Marines, their dependents and civilian workers for decades. The VA established a link between the contaminated water and 15 “qualifying conditions” ranging from various cancers to miscarriage and neurological disorders that enable Marine veterans who spent 30 days or more at the base between 1953-87 to apply for benefits. Eight of those conditions are now considered “presumptive” meaning that former Marines suffering from these conditions will be automatically covered under proposed VA rules much like Agent Orange applies to Vietnam Veterans. But so far, former Marine reservists like Boulay have nowhere to turn, no matter what ails them. “I can’t get any relief or any recognition of being an active duty Marine they don’t even consider me a veteran even though I am honorably discharged from the Marine Corps,” Boulay said. “I don’t count. That’s what it boils down to.”
Benefits for veterans exposed to toxic water at Camp Lejeune at center of bipartisan Senate bill
Greensboro.com, April 30, 2016
Republican U.S. Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis of North Carolina introduced legislation Friday along with U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., that would put more pressure on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to extend benefits to veterans exposed to water contamination at Camp Lejeune. Nearly one million U.S. Marines, sailors, civilian employees and relatives drank, cooked with or bathed in toxic tap water between 1953 and 1987. Industrial dumping on the base and runoff from a dry cleaners off base contributed to the contamination. The VA’s response, according to veteran advocacy groups, has been too slow. Randal Noller, a VA spokesman, said the department is still working on developing regulations that will ultimately allow the department to provide benefits to veterans who have one of the diseases that has been classified as a “presumptive” illness of the toxic water. As things stand, the VA cannot grant any benefit claims based on proposed “presumption of service” in connection with conditions related to toxic water exposure until it issues final regulations, he said. The VA “encourages veterans who have a record of service at Camp Lejeune between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987, and who have developed a condition that they believe is related to exposure to the drinking water at the base, to file a disability compensation claim with VA,” he said in an email.
Veterans groups sue VA for identities of Camp Lejeune water ‘experts’
Military Times, April 27, 2016
Two veterans groups are suing the VA in the case of illnesses caused by exposure to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The organizations — The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten and Vietnam Veterans of America — filed suit Tuesday for documents related to disability claims and the Veterans Affairs Department’s use of subject-matter experts to weigh in on them. The water was tainted by organic solvents and other cancer-causing chemicals from 1953 through 1987. The groups filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the documents in December but say the VA has not responded. “Our FOIA, which has gone unanswered, is to find out who the subject-matter experts are, what kind of credentials they have … the VA doesn’t want us to know that,” said Jerry Ensminger, a founder of The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten and a retired Marine master sergeant whose 9-year-old daughter died of leukemia in 1987. Under the Camp Lejeune subject-matter expert program, all documents related to a claim, including medical records and physician recommendations, are reviewed by a designated expert who recommends whether to accept or reject it. Since the subject-matter program was introduced in 2012, Camp Lejeune claim approvals have dropped from 25 percent to 8 percent, according to the groups. The Camp Lejeune subject-matter expert program is the only disability claims process within the VA that requires the third-party review. “All of the pronouncements about this being the most open and transparent administration in history don’t reflect what is happening at VA, in this instance and many others,” said Rick Weidman, director of government relations for Vietnam Veterans of America. “It’s time for the White House to make VA clean it up.” Nearly a million people, including troops, family members and civilian employees, may have been exposed to volatile organic compounds and other chemicals such as benzene and vinyl chloride in the drinking water at the coastal Marine Corps base, from 1953 until at least 1987, when the water treatment facilities supplying the contaminated water were closed. Roughly 10,000 disability claims have been filed to the VA related to Camp Lejeune water toxicity. Democrat Richard Blumenthal, who sits on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and represents the state of Connecticut, where the lawsuit was filed on behalf of the groups by the Yale Law School Veterans Legal Services Clinic, said Tuesday that the VA should expedite its response to the groups’ FOIA. “The VA’s lack of response to these brave men and women is utterly and completely unacceptable … The subject-matter expert program deserves real searching, penetrating scrutiny. The lawsuit makes this point very, very well,” Blumenthal said.
Sen. Burr, Tillis lead effort to get disability benefits for Camp Lejeune vets with bladder cancer
The Ripon Advance, March 29, 2016
U.S. Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) recently spearheaded successful efforts to get bladder cancer added to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) list of presumptive diseases. The VA announced on Thursday that a presumption of service connection had been established for service members suffering from bladder cancer from contaminated drinking water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Last year, the VA did not include bladder cancer on a list of eight presumptive diseases for veterans who served at Camp Lejeune. Veterans who suffer from presumptive diseases qualify for disability compensation. “I’m glad the VA is stepping up to help the veterans who were negligently poisoned by the water at Camp Lejeune,” Burr said. “The scientific link between bladder cancer and service at Camp Lejeune is clear. I had a lot of questions for the VA when bladder cancer was not included on the initial list of presumptive diseases. This is an important step in the right direction.” Burr and Tillis led efforts to get bladder cancer added to the list, recently urging Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan to not allow cost to be a deterrent to establishing disability presumption for bladder cancer. “While there was no excuse for the VA to initially deny disability compensation for veterans who developed bladder cancer as a result of past toxic water contamination at Camp Lejeune, I’m grateful that the VA made the right decision in the end,” Tillis said. “We have a debt of obligation to the veterans, family members and other civilians who were poisoned at Camp Lejeune, and today’s announcement helps us provide hundreds of more veterans with the compensation they need and deserve.”
VA to change disability claims rules for Camp Lejeune veterans
Military Times, December 18, 2015
The Veterans Affairs Department has determined that eight medical conditions are linked to service at Camp Lejeune, N.C. from 1953 to 1987, and veterans with these diseases who were stationed at the sprawling Marine Corps base are eligible for disability compensation. VA officials said Thursday that these eight diseases that have been determined to be service-connected to consuming contaminated drinking water at the base: kidney cancer, liver cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma, scleroderma, Parkinson’s disease and aplastic anemia or other myelodysplastic syndromes. VA Secretary Robert McDonald said research by health experts at the Veterans Health Administration and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, an arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, indicated that the risk of developing these illnesses is elevated by exposure to contaminants found in the water, including perchloroethylene, trichlorotheylene, benzene and other volatile organic compounds. “The water at Camp Lejeune was a hidden hazard, and it is only years later that we know how dangerous it was,” McDonald said. “We thank ATSDR for the thorough review that provided much of the evidence we needed to fully compensate veterans who develop one of the conditions known to be related to exposure to the compounds in the drinking water.” Nearly a million people, including troops, family members and civilian employees working at Camp Lejeune from the 1950s through the 1980s were exposed to these chemicals and other cancer-causing agents in the base’s drinking water, supplied by two water treatment facilities polluted by dry cleaning compounds, leaking underground storage tanks, industrial spills and poor disposal practices. The VA has provided health care or reimbursement for medical costs for veterans who served at Camp Lejeune at least 30 days during the affected period or family members with 15 illnesses related to exposure to water contaminated by solvents and fuels, but it had not awarded “presumptive status” to any condition until now. The changes will take effect after VA publishes regulations regarding these presumptions, and will apply to new disability claims. Veterans who have previously been denied on such claims may seek to be re-evaluated. Also, any pending claims that might be denied under current regulations will be placed on hold until the VA issues its final rules, according to a department press release. The bedrock eligibility rules will be that veterans must have one of the eight specified conditions and must have served at Camp Lejeune between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987. The new rules also will expand eligibility to reserve and National Guard members who served at Camp Lejeune for any length of time during that period. A VA spokeswoman said compensation awarded as a result of the proposed regulations, if adopted, will “be effective no earlier than the date the final rule is published.” Veterans have expressed frustration over the low rate of claims approvals for illnesses related to the Camp Lejeune water.
Florida vets express frustration to VA over Camp Lejeune benefits
Tampa Bay Times, December 5, 2015
Robert Shuster of Hudson, Fla., stood up Saturday at a public meeting with the Department of Veterans Affairs and federal scientists studying the health effects of polluted drinking at Camp Lejeune, N.C. He held up two pieces of paper. One was the surgical pathology report Shuster sent to the VA that diagnosed him with sarcoma. The other document was a letter from the VA denying his claim for benefits, saying in stilted language the disease did not exist in him — he didn’t have a malignancy. “How can it not exist?” Shuster, 54, asked plaintively. About 150 Marine Corps veterans and family members crowded a room at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay for a town hall meeting to hear VA officials and federal scientists provide an update on work studying contamination at the North Carolina base. The VA representatives heard great frustration from veterans about their difficulties in getting the agency to provide benefits for those who were sickened by the water. Up to a million veterans were exposed to what scientists consider one of the nation’s worst episodes of water contamination. Drinking water at the base was tainted with a stew of industrial solvents and components of gasoline for at least 30 years ending in the 1980s. Tens of thousands of those veterans and their family members now live in Florida, the state with the second-highest number of potential victims behind North Carolina, federal figures show. The meeting included epidemiologists at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the lead agency studying health effects. The agency has concluded through a number of studies that contaminated water created a variety of health effects, from birth defects to some types of cancer. But for veterans who came to the meeting, most of their concern was directed at the VA. “You’re not helping us, you’re hurting us,” said Camp Lejeune veteran Paul Maslow, 64, of Daytona Beach, who said he has inoperable tumors on his spine and elsewhere in his body. “The more you delay, the more of us who are going to die. And we thank you very much for that.”
Health effects of toxic water at Marine Base plague veteran
Military.com, November 3, 2015
Michael Nazario, a 52-year-old former member of the U.S. amateur boxing team who served in the U.S. Marines from 1983 to 1986, could not understand why he has had so many health issues. Bulemia nervosa, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, and skin conditions were just some of the issues with which he struggled. He went through many jobs and several divorces. A couple of years ago, he received a letter from the U.S. Navy advising that he might be among those who served at Camp Lejeune, N.C., suffering from the effects of contaminated drinking water. Anyone who served or lived at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 was potentially exposed to drinking water contaminated with industrial solvents, benzene and other chemicals, the Department of Veteran Affairs advises. “This chemical exposure may have led to adverse health conditions,” the VA said. Nazario is planning to attend a public meeting by The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in Tampa Dec. 4-5 on the health effects of toxic water contamination at Camp Lejeune. The meeting will be held at Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, 2900 Bayport Drive, Tampa. For more information or registration, visit atsdr.cdc.gov/sites/lejeune/capmeetings.html. Nazario believes the health issues that he has been dealing with stem from Camp Lejeune. He went to the VA for an evaluation in 2014, and in May 2015 was rated 70 percent disabled, providing him with a pension and regular healthcare. “People started coming down with all these things and no one knew why,” Nazario said. “That’s what happens when you put chemicals in people’s bodies without them knowing.”
VA hammered for long delay in addressing toxic exposures
The Huffington Post, September 29, 2015
The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee heard testimony from senators and advocates who urged the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to remove roadblocks to care and compensation for veterans sickened by environmental toxicants, including contaminated drinking water at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune. “Agents within the VA system have expended more effort, time and money devising methods to deny Camp Lejeune victims their rightful benefits rather than providing them,” Retired Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger, who has devoted nearly 18 years to research and advocacy on the issue, said in his testimony before the Senate. His daughter Janey, who was born on the base, died on Sept. 24, 1985, at the age of 9 from a rare form of leukemia. “The 30th anniversary of her death was just five short, painful days ago,” added Ensminger. “Janey is but one example of the multitude of tragedies suffered by former Camp Lejeune families who were exposed by this negligence.” Ensminger is among critics who have accused the VA of dragging its feet with regard to veterans exposed to toxicants — allegedly denying and delaying help, often through the deceitful and faulty use of cherry-picked and outdated science. Hundreds of thousands of former and current military personnel have likely encountered a number of toxicants, from burn-pit smoke in the Middle East to plumes of radiation off the coast of Fukushima to lingering Agent Orange herbicide, which is now believed to have also affected so-called Blue Water Navy and C-123 veterans who never set foot in Vietnam. Any of these exposures, experts say, may take years or even decades to manifest as a medical problem like cancer or respiratory disease. Research even suggests the effects could haunt future generations — with an exposed veteran’s unexposed grandchildren and other future descendants also potentially facing elevated health risks. “We know that the modern battlefield includes perils even for the veteran who hasn’t been engaged in combat,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said during the hearing. “When a veteran signs up for duty, he or she has not signed up their children or grandchildren — risking their own lives doesn’t mean volunteering the next generation for a neurological condition, cancer or other life-threatening conditions.” The VA responded to the escalating Camp Lejeune concerns in August, announcing it intends to revise how it grants disability benefits for veterans who lived at the base between the mid-1950s and the 1980s, when toxic chemicals tainted the base’s drinking water. Medical care for 15 different illnesses, including kidney cancer and leukemia, is already mandated by a 2012 federal bill named after Janey Ensminger. The VA’s move to establish “presumptive status” for these exposed veterans — that is, to presume that specific illnesses diagnosed in certain vets are a result of their military service — would eventually make it easier for vets to win disability benefits as well. But critics remain frustrated and impatient with what they see as continued foot-dragging. “We got that announcement, but then nothing happened,” said Mike Partain, who was born at Camp Lejeune and developed breast cancer at the age of 39. He attended Tuesday’s hearing but did not testify. The VA is currently conducting a separate series of meetings, planned through mid-October, to determine which health conditions should be included in the presumption, noted agency representatives at the hearing. Once that determination is finalized, veterans who meet the eligibility requirements would receive benefits for those conditions.
New Camp Lejeune water study shows potential link to male breast cancer
Jacksonville Daily News, September 23, 2015
A new study indicates the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune and the development of male breast cancer in Marines exposed to it may be connected. The study published last week in the Environmental Health journal by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease (ATSDR), a research team under the Center for Disease Control, looked at 444 male Marines born before 1969 who were treated for specific cancers by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Scientists found that 30 of them were stationed at Camp Lejeune during the worst water contamination case in U.S. history and would later be diagnosed with male breast cancer. “We observed an accelerated onset of male breast cancer among those stationed at Camp Lejeune compared to other bases,” the study said, adding that seven other cases involving male breast cancer were found. However, the scientists could not identify where those Marines were stationed during the timeframe of contamination; and they were not included in the final analysis. Scientists noted that the study was limited in its research due to the small number of cases available. Noted also was the challenge of tracking down Marines diagnosed with male breast cancer since only 25 percent of veterans reported using VA health care facilities, an approximation that ultimately reduced the sampling size of the experiment. In the United States, male breast cancer is not very common: only about 2,000 men a year are diagnosed, with approximately 400 dying from the disease, according to the CDC. To put this into perspective, when compared to the more than 151 million males in the U.S. population, according to a 2010 U.S. Census report, only 1 in about 76,000 males would be diagnosed with breast cancer and 1 in 5 of them would die from the disease. For men born during the timeframe of the Lejeune water contamination — 1953 to 1987 — breast cancer development is significantly uncommon. According to more recent 2011 CDC statistics, only 1 in 100,000 males will be affected. For ATSDR scientists, the rarity of breast cancer in men is what underscores the importance of the study and continued research. “The takeaway from this study is that there is a possible association,” said Lori Freshwater, a member of the CDC’s Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Community Assistance Panel or CAP. “But since it is a very small study, more research is being called for in order to better establish the link. “What we do know, which is important, is that this first step did not come to the conclusion that there was no apparent association,” Freshwater said. “The Department of Defense needs to start dealing with chemical exposure as part of their mission of force protection.”
Veterans stung by Mabus comments on Camp Lejeune water
Military Times, September 22, 2015
Ill veterans and those whose family members died from diseases related to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune are outraged by recent comments from Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in which he discounted a link between chronic disease and service at the North Carolina Marine Corps base from the mid-1950s to 1980s. At a forum in Cleveland on Sept. 14, Mabus responded to a question from an audience member regarding the safety of the current base water supply. Mabus assured the man that the water has been safe to consume for nearly 30 years and blamed the original problem on an off-base dry cleaner illegally dumping solvents near two military housing areas. He also said that while there have been “allegations that there is a higher incidence of illness with people who had gone through as Marines,” studies conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry “can find no correlation.” The remarks have upset former troops who fought the Marine Corps and Defense Department to release all documents related to the problem and lobbied for recognition of their illnesses or losses. According to four reports produced by the ASTDR, the population, including Marines and civilian employees, do appear to have higher rates of diseases related to exposure to compounds found in the water, including volatile organic compounds, benzene and vinyl chloride. The documentation also notes that the problem was related to industrial dumping and leaking storage tanks in addition to the illegal solvent dumping by ABC One-Hour Cleaner. Mike Partain, who was born at the Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune in 1968 and diagnosed as an adult with breast cancer, called Mabus’ comments “insulting” and said they show the secretary is out of touch with the problem. “There have been several congressional hearings about this issue. Congress passed a law to help affected veterans. VA provides medical care for these problems,” Partain said. “The time for deflecting and whitewashing is over. The science is in.”
VA to establish Camp Lejeune presumptive conditions
VetsHQ, August 4, 2015
In a huge victory for Marine veterans and their families, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it will begin the process of establishing Camp Lejeune presumptive service connections for certain diseases resulting from exposure to toxic groundwater over a 30-year period at the North Carolina base. In an August 3, 2015 statement, the VA said it is currently reviewing kidney cancer, angiosarcoma of the liver, and acute myelogenous leukemia for “potential presumptive service connection.” “The diseases … are known to be related to long-term exposure to the chemicals that were in the water at Lejeune from the 1950s through 1987,” the VA statement said. “The chemicals are Benzene, Vinyl Chloride, Trichloroethylene and Perchloroethylene, which are known as volatile organic compounds, used in industrial solvents and components of fuels. ATSDR and VA representatives will meet at ATSDR offices on August 19 to begin discussions on establishing these presumptions.” The VA’s announcement is being hailed as a huge victory for Marines and their families who were stationed on the base at any point between 1953 and 1987.
VA’s ‘experts’ on toxic chemicals may not know what they’re talking about
The Huffington Post, July 30, 2015
Pfc. Donald Burpee spent four months of 1975 living at Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base in North Carolina. On July 7 of this year, at the age of 59, he lost an eight-year battle with kidney cancer — one of a number of illnesses linked with exposure to the toxic chemicals that tainted the drinking water at Camp Lejeune between the 1950s and 1980s. The Department of Veterans Affairs provided Burpee with medical coverage, including hospice, but repeatedly denied his claims for disability benefits. Burpee died not knowing whether his wife, four children and four grandchildren would be taken care of in the future. “They throw up so many roadblocks to you, it’s unreal,” said Brenda Burpee, Donald’s widow. Camp Lejeune’s water was contaminated by dozens of chemicals beginning in at least 1953, though it was only discovered in the early 1980s. The contamination has been traced to leaking underground storage tanks, industrial spills and the disposal of solvents from an on-base dry cleaner. Among the chemicals, trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), vinyl chloride and benzene are thought to be the most damaging to human health. Lejeune veterans have reported ailments including prostate and bladder cancer, as well as chronic kidney disease. Kidney cancer is not uncommon. Burpee’s family found the VA’s denial baffling. Given the science supporting a connection between exposure to TCE and kidney cancer, what was the rationale for withholding disability? The family learned that the VA’s decision rested largely on the opinion of one of 22 experts recently hired by the agency to review veterans’ claims, part of what’s known as the subject matter expert program. The program was launched in 2013 to ensure “consistent and accurate decisions for Camp Lejeune veterans,” according to internal VA documents. But veterans’ advocates and scientists have raised troubling questions about the experts’ decisions, and critics speculate the program may be part of a push to deny claims and evade the responsibility to care for veterans who have served the country. The doubts about the SME program reflect wider concern about how the VA has treated current and former military personnel who may have been sickened by environmental exposures, including residual Agent Orange on repurposed aircraft, burn pit smoke in the Middle East and plumes of radiation following the Fukushima disaster.
Camp Lejeune veterans: Are VA experts qualified?
WKMG-Orlando, July 14, 2015
Thousands of Camp Lejeune veterans are still fighting for disability benefits after being diagnosed with illness they say are from the toxic drinking water on base. Many claim the doctors that are reviewing their cases from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs may not be qualified to do it. Franklin McArthur, Jr. spent 730 days at Camp Lejeune. Nearly 50 years later, he was diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma called mycosis fungoid. “I had no idea where it came from,” said McArthur. “At the time, I didn’t know about the Camp Lejeune water contamination situation. Nobody contacted me, nobody sent me a letter or anything.” He said it wasn’t until he saw a news program about the exposure did everything make sense. McArthur said because non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is one of the conditions covered under the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012, he filed for disability benefits with the VA. But his Camp Lejeune benefits claim was denied. “It had to be the exposure. It had to be,” said McArthur. But the VA’s doctor didn’t agree. McArthur said he was shocked about the doctor’s reasoning. “He couldn’t have done any research, because anyone could have done what he did,” said McArthur. “Plagiarize Wikipedia and make a decision on my claim.” He said it appears the doctor cut and pasted information on mycosis fungoid from Wikipedia in his report. “Then made to look the way that person wanted it to look,” said McArthur. “Even instances where they said it wasn’t genetic and he said it was. So he outright lied, actually.” McArthur is referring to a line in his denial that said: “While the causes remain unclear, most cases are genetic or hereditary.” The sentence in the Wikipedia page includes the word “not”, indicating most cases are not genetic or hereditary. Local 6 has asked the VA why a subject matter expert would need to use Wikipedia. “The audiences for medical opinions are the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) raters, the Veteran and potentially the Board of Veterans Appeals judge,” said Meagan Lutz, a VA representative, in an email. “The medical opinion should be written in a manner that clearly explains the elements of the case using non-technical language. The subject matter expert uses multiple sources to gather information to complete the medical opinion.”
2014 consumer confidence reports issued on base water quality
Camp Lejeune Globe, June 18, 2015
Water consumers at Marine Corps Installations East–Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune (MCIEAST-MCB CAMLEJ), Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River and throughout the country will soon be receiving easy-to-understand Consumer Confidence Reports that will allow them to make informed choices that affect the health of their families and themselves. What is a Consumer Confidence Report? As a result of the Consumer Confidence Rule developed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) in August of 1998, all public water systems, including the water supply systems at MCIEAST-MCB CAMLEJ and MCAS New River, are required to publish an annual report on the quality of drinking water provided to consumers. The annual Consumer Confidence Report is a “report card” to provide facts about the drinking water here. The report identifies the source of our drinking water and details any contaminants detected during the reporting year. It also provides important health information. By July 1, 2015, MCIEAST-MCB CAMLEJ will notify all Base housing residents (to include MCAS New River housing), by means of their community newsletters and/or in an email provided by their property managers on how to access the report. Residents will be able to use a direct link URL to a website displaying the Consumer Confidence Report. In addition, copies of the 2014 MCIEAST-MCB CAMLEJ Consumer Confidence Report will be available at the MCIEAST-MCB CAMLEJ Public Affairs Office in Building 67. Copies of the 2014 MCAS New River Consumer Confidence Report will be available at the MCAS New River Environmental, Safety, and Geospatial Services Department (ESGS) in Building AS211. For additional information contact James Marshall-Zank or Lauren Acosta at (910)451-5068 or the Public Affairs Office at (910)451-5655. The Consumer Confidence Reports will also be posted on the Environmental Management Division web page under Annual Reports: http://www.lejeune.marines.mil/OfficesStaff/EnvironmentalMgmt.aspx.
Marines who served at Camp Lejeune but can’t get VA health care
WFTS-Tampa Bay, May 22, 2015
Former Marine reservist Bob Boulay believes the 90 days he served at Camp Lejeune cost him his health. Medical records indicate the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune caused kidney disease and renal toxicity, two of the 15 health conditions tied to chemical exposure at the base. The 52-year-old who spent eight years in the reserves characterizes the not-so-bad days as those that don’t require pills to get out of bed. Yet time and again he’s been denied healthcare through the VA. The VA told us reservists don’t qualify for VA healthcare under the Camp Lejeune Healthcare Act. It’s reserved for full time military. Former Marine reservist Gary Ouilette spent three months at Camp Lejeune in the early 70s. Ten years later doctors found a tumor and diagnosed him with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He says the Marines never notified him of toxic water at the base. Twenty years after Ouilette’s diagnosis, doctors found and removed five more tumors on his head. He too was denied healthcare benefits. We went to Congressman Gus Bilirakis’s office with the men’s stories and medical records. In a statement the congressman told us, “What we have in this situation is a technical loophole by which some members of the military have been excluded from the rights to which they should be entitled. Whether someone was designated as active duty or as part of an inactive training operation at this site, they were doing so in service to their country. If they were exposed to contaminants that harmed their health during that service, they should have access to care and compensation.” Bilirakis said he will work to expand the coverage offered through the Camp Lejeune Health Care Act to include reservists exposed to the contaminated water.
Florida man pushes VA to help Camp Lejeune victims
WTSP-Tampa, May 14, 2015
A Tampa-area man has battled breast cancer and is taking on the VA trying to help veterans and their families dealing with the effects from toxic tap water at Camp Lejeune. Victims say the Department of Veterans Affairs is failing marines, sailors and their families. It’s estimated nearly a million people have been exposed to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina over three decades. Many are now struggling with health effects. “You’ve got to wonder what the VA is doing. Why are they not taking care of our veterans?” says Mike Partain. The Polk County native is fighting with the feds to help save lives. Partain was born at the Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital in 1968. He and his mom spent 5 months there until his dad was deployed in the Vietnam War. Partain didn’t give his time at the base much thought until 40 years later. “Oh, you were poisoned before you were even born, and, oh by the way, the Marine Corps didn’t tell you about it even though they knew,” says Partain. “I was diagnosed with male breast cancer.” He’s not alone. “We’re close to 90 men with breast cancer from Camp Lejeune,” Partain says. It surfaced years later that the water used by service members and their families on base from 1953 until 1987 had been contaminated by fuel leaks and harmful chemicals. Recent studies have shown a link to the toxic tap water and medical problems. “I was angry and shocked,” says Partain. The breast cancer survivor turned that anger into helping others. He just got back from a meeting in North Carolina. He works with a group commissioned by the CDC to warn others. “They were exposed to chemicals that can and do cause cancer,” Partain says. In 2012, Partain was at the White House as President Barack Obama made it a law to help the victims with medical care for 15 different cancers and conditions connected to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. Partain believes more work needs to be done. “If you should become disabled because of your illness, there’s no guarantee you’ll receive disability from the VA,” says Partain. He’s pushing Congress to force the VA to change that. “We acknowledge that we poisoned them, we give them health care but we deny them the benefits and make them jump through all these hurdles. The VA is not doing the right thing,” Partain says.
More studies in the works on Camp Lejeune toxic water victims
WNCT-Greenville, N.C., May 12, 2015
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry presented an update on its studies for past water contamination at Camp Lejeune. The CDC agency (ATSDR) has released at least four studies linking toxic water exposure to birth defects, cancer and disease. It found that a dry cleaner and base activities contaminated the water from the 1950’s to the 1980’s. In 2012, President Barack Obama signed an act to clear the way for an estimated one million people to get health benefits. A court of appeals ruling essentially put them in a place where some could not file a claim because recent state law did not apply retroactively. ATSDR says it has five studies in the works, including tracking how poor water led to air problems as well. Another one focuses on men who got breast cancer. “So these are a nasty bunch of chemicals that people at Camp Lejeune were exposed to,” said Dr. Richard Clapp, a member of the ATSDR Community Assistance Panel. “It’s not a surprise unfortunately that excess deaths have occurred from the number of conditions I just mentioned and there have been birth defects.” The Community Assistance Panel was established to “voice the concerns of the affected community of marines and their families and to provide input for health studies.”
Thousands in Florida potential victims of Camp Lejeune water contamination
Orlando Sentinel, March 23, 2015
Christina Peach’s parents welcomed a seemingly healthy baby into the world in 1975 at the Naval Regional Medical Center in Camp Lejeune, the North Carolina base where her father was stationed as a Marine sergeant. Seven years later, a chemical consulting company found that water from the emergency-room sink contained 1,400 parts per billion of trichloroethylene — 280 times its regulatory limit for drinking water today — which “has been reported to produce liver and kidney damage and central nervous system disturbances in humans,” according to a memo from Grainger Laboratories in 1982. Peach, 39, who now lives in Mount Dora, believes the water she was exposed to in utero and as an infant is responsible for the kidney cancer she developed last year and for her father’s premature death. Doctors discovered the mass growing on her right kidney when she got a CT scan for appendicitis in January 2014. Her father, Michael Hightower, 61, died 10 months later from lung cancer that had spread to his brain, bladder and bones, she said. “The devastation of this tragedy is still being experienced today,” she wrote on a fundraising page for her father’s cremation and funeral costs. “These Marines and their families dedicated themselves to this country and are now losing their lives to cancer and other life-threatening health issues.” In Florida, 19,965 people — veterans, family members and civil workers — are registered with the Marine Corps as potential victims of the Camp Lejeune water contamination, the largest number in any state besides North Carolina. But Peach, who said she lived in a duplex in a nearby fishing village, is not eligible for benefits because she did not reside at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days, as the 2012 law requires. Still, she argues, all of her mom’s prenatal care took place at the base hospital, she drank the water mixed with her baby formula, visited the base cafeteria and drank water her dad brought home.
New Lejeune water contamination report raises concerns
Jacksonville Daily News, March 19, 2015
As Gavin Smith read over a new report released this week from the Institute of Medicine, it was what is missing from the document that raised his concerns. The report offers recommendations to improve a draft Veterans Affairs clinical guidance document intended to help health care providers determine whether a veteran or family member has a medical condition covered by legislation established in response to groundwater contamination that was documented at Camp Lejeune. In 2012, Congress passed the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act, which provides hospital care and medical services to veterans and family members who have any of the 15 health conditions associated with use or consumption of the contaminated water. The report states that between 1957 and 1987, the groundwater at Camp Lejeune was inadvertently contaminated with chemicals that were later found to cause cancer and other health problems. After a quick glance, Smith noticed the dates. He said there is evidence to support a starting date of 1953. But after further review he was disappointed not to find more reference to the recent research by the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ASTDR). The recent reports — the 2014 Birth Defects and Childhood Cancer Study, the 2014 Civilian Mortality Study, the 2014 Military and Naval Personnel Study and the 2014 Male Breast Cancer Study — all show elevated risks for cancers and other illnesses as a result of exposure to drinking water exposure through ingestion, absorption through skin, or inhalation of vapors from the soil.
A cancer cluster is tough to prove
The New York Times, February 16, 2015
Last month, thousands of Marines and their families were blocked in federal court from pursuing their claim that the government had given them cancer. The decision, involving people exposed to contaminated drinking water while stationed at Camp Lejeune, a base in North Carolina, didn’t consider the science. Long before expert witnesses could be called to testify, a United States Court of Appeals let stand its earlier ruling that the lawsuit had come too late. It failed to meet the requirements of a state statute banning claims arising more than 10 years after the final occurrence of a harmful act. The genetic mutations that cause cancer can take decades to manifest themselves, far longer than the North Carolina statute of repose allowed. But the laws we cobble together often trump those of science. And even when legal obstacles can be overcome, a link between a cancer and environmental pollutants is exceedingly difficult to establish, whether in a laboratory or a court of law.
Appeals court hands Camp Lejeune Marines, families a setback
VetsHQ, October 15, 2014
Camp Lejeune Marines and their families have lost another attempt in their bid to sue the U.S. government for diseases caused by contaminated groundwater on the North Carolina base between the 1950s and 1980s. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that time has run out for victims to file lawsuits seeking damages or other remedies because of North Carolina’s “statute of repose”, a 10-year limit on lawsuits for liability. The State of North Carolina passed a law earlier this summer seeking to clarify that the “statute of repose” was aimed at product liability and not meant to shield companies or institutions from accountability in cases like groundwater contamination. The appeals court found that the clarification passed unanimously by the state legislature and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory after the Supreme Court ruling could only apply to future claims, according to McClatchyDC.
VA extends deadline for Camp Lejeune veterans
VetsHQ, October 8, 2014
The VA has announced it will extend the deadline for Camp Lejeune veterans to claim status related to groundwater contamination at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune by one year to September 24, 2016. Under the new rules related to the implementation of the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Act, veterans have an additional year to claim status as a Camp Lejeune veteran, which would make them eligible for retroactive reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses incurred since August 6, 2012, which is the date that Congress authorized the VA to begin providing benefits to Camp Lejeune veterans. This change is in addition to the September 24, 2014 publishing of regulations for family members of Camp Lejeune veterans also affected by the toxic groundwater on the base between 1957 and 1987.
VA finally acts for dependents on Camp Lejeune toxic water
VetsHQ, September 24, 2014
Finally, two years after Congress passed the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act, the Department of Veterans Affairs has announced it will begin to cover out-of-pocket costs for dependents of Marines affected by the Camp Lejeune toxic water contamination at the base. According to McClatchyDC, the lengthy process from the bill’s passage was long, and no reason was provided as to the delay. The VA wrote the regulations, and then the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which is part of the Office of Management and Budget, had to approve them. Approval for the regulations was made on Sept. 9, 2014. The VA didn’t respond to a question about the length of time required for the implementation of the law.
Camp Lejeune and the U.S. Military’s Polluted Legacy
Newsweek, July 16, 2014
The old railroad track, now a bike and jogging path, winds through the forest that separates Camp Lejeune from Highway 24, which caters to the thousands of Marines stationed here with cheap barbershops that will trim your high-and-tight for $5, furniture stores for the many young families on base, a couple of gun shops, a few bars and the requisite jiggle joint. None of this familiarly shabby Americana is even remotely visible from the verdant path. Trees crowd the sylvan trail like overeager children at a Fourth of July parade, their branches poking through the base’s barbed wire fence. You hear far more woodpeckers and thrushes than Osprey helicopters. Spend enough time on this lush greenway or on the dunes of nearby Onslow Beach and you might forget that Camp Lejeune may be, as Dan Rather once said, “the worst example of water contamination this country has ever seen.” Camp Lejeune, in Jacksonville, North Carolina, is a toxic paradox, a place where young men and women were poisoned while in the service of their nation. They swore to defend this land, and the land made them sick. And there are hundreds of Camp Lejeunes across the country, military sites contaminated with all manner of pollutants, from chemical weapon graveyards to vast groundwater deposits of gasoline. Soldiers know they might be felled by a sniper’s bullet in Baghdad or a roadside bomb in the gullies of Afghanistan. They might even expect it. But waterborne carcinogens are not an enemy whose ambush they prepare for.
Obama Administration Moves to Deny Justice For Camp Lejeune Veterans (Commentary)
Roll Call, July 2, 2014
America’s veterans deserve better. The growing scandal that has engulfed the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs overshadowed other actions by the Obama administration that further call into question its policies to protect the men and women who have served in the armed forces. Behind the scenes, the U.S. Department of Justice is actively working to avoid compensating military families who were sickened by contaminated water at the U.S. Marines’ Camp Lejeune base in Jacksonville, N.C. On June 9, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision that could prevent these families from getting the justice they deserve. In CTS Corp. v. Waldburger, the court ruled that federal law does not supplant a North Carolina time limit that may bar homeowners in the city of Asheville from filing claims against the company responsible for dumping pollutants in their backyards years earlier. The court’s ruling was exactly what the U.S. Department of Justice wanted. In a brief and at an oral argument in the CTS case, the administration’s lawyers sided with the company, noting specifically that the case could affect the ongoing Camp Lejeune litigation. Then, just hours after the Supreme Court decided against the homeowners, the federal government, citing the opinion, moved quickly to try to have the claims of the Camp Lejeune victims dismissed.
Hagan Bill to Address Court Decision on CTS Pollution
Asheville (N.C.) Citizen Times, June 29, 2014
U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan introduced a bill designed to protect the ability of those harmed by toxic groundwater contamination to seek legal recourse in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that blocked a lawsuit filed by neighbors of the former CTS plant in Asheville. The legislation, filed in the House by U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-Wilson, would make it clear that federal environmental law preempts state laws that limit the timeframe in which damages could be recovered for harm that sometimes takes decades to appear. The Supreme Court ruling earlier this month also impacts Camp Lejeune, where health officials estimate as many as 1 million people may have been exposed to tainted groundwater over several decades. “The legislation clarifies the intent of existing federal law and addresses the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that delivered a major blow to the service members and families affected by the water contamination at Camp Lejeune and the CTS site, making it nearly impossible for these victims to seek justice under the law,” said Hagan, a Democrat. “One short-sighted decision by the U.S. Supreme Court should not stand in the way of getting these victims the answers and justice they deserve.”
McCrory Signs Toxic Water Suit Bill
WRAL, June 20, 2014
Gov. Pat McCrory has signed into law a bill that could revive two major water contamination lawsuits in federal courts. McCrory signed the measure Friday morning, accompanied by Reps. Chuck McGrady, R-Buncombe, and Nathan Ramsey, R-Buncombe, who represent the district where the CTS lawsuit is centered. North Carolina’s product liability law, written in 1979, strictly limits liability to 10 years from the last contaminating act, a time frame known as a “statute of repose” for civil claims. The new legislation, Senate Bill 574, clarifies that the law was never meant to apply to groundwater contamination. Lower courts ruled that federal environmental law preempted the state’s 10-year limit. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 9 that the state’s statute supersedes the federal law, barring the plaintiffs from suing CTS. That ruling also affects a suit against the federal government over contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune. Federal attorneys filed an amicus brief in the CTS suit, indicating they planned to use the state’s 10-year limit to quash the Lejeune lawsuit.
Supreme Court Ruling Muddies the Water In Lejeune Pollution Case
McClatchyDC, June 9, 2014
The Supreme Court on Monday dealt a blow to North Carolina families trying to sue over groundwater contamination at a big Marine Corps base. In a technical decision with real-world consequences, the court upheld North Carolina’s limits on how long people have to bring certain pollution-related lawsuits. By upholding the state’s 10-year limit, called a statute of repose, the court effectively undercut lawsuits centering on Camp Lejeune. “Time is the controlling factor,” Justice Anthony Kennedy declared. The immediate case decided Monday involved the CTS Corp., and not the Camp Lejeune groundwater contamination. The separate Camp Lejeune cases, though, will be affected by the ruling in the CTS case. That’s because the North Carolina law starts a 10-year clock running from the last culpable act of the defendant; for instance, from when a company stops polluting or sells its property. After the clock runs out, lawsuits alleging injury from the contamination are banned.
Victims of Toxic Water Meet Skepticism At Supreme Court
USA TODAY, April 23, 2014
A divided Supreme Court seemed mostly dubious Wednesday that federal claims for environmental damages can be brought after state deadlines have passed, signaling a potential setback for thousands of former Marines and their families exposed decades ago to contaminated water. The little-noticed case before the court concerned corporate liability for land found to be contaminated decades after the pollution occurred, and several justices sympathized with the landowners’ plight. But they didn’t sound inclined to strike down a state law that foreclosed legal claims. That could spell trouble not only for the Asheville, N.C., property owners seeking to recover from CTS Corp. but for ex-Marines who have fought for years to win damages from the U.S. Navy for deaths and illnesses caused by toxic drinking water. “What are they saying — that if you’re deceitful enough to hide your negligence, then you’re going to get rewarded?” Jerry Ensminger, a Marine veteran whose 9-year-old daughter, Janey, died of a rare form of leukemia in 1985, said after the court session. The case was notable because the Obama administration opposed the residents’ claims, even after President Obama signed a law in 2012 that provided health benefits to Camp Lejeune veterans and family members. The law was named after Janey Ensminger.
Camp Lejeune Study Finds Higher Cancer Death Risk
NBC News, February 19, 2014
People stationed at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune while the water there was contaminated were more likely to die from several types of cancer, as well as Lou Gehrig’s disease, according to an official government report released Wednesday. It’s the latest in a series of reports showing the contaminated water at the base seriously affected Marines and their families. “The study found elevated (risks) at Camp Lejeune for several causes of death including cancers of the kidney, liver, esophagus, cervix, multiple myeloma, Hodgkin lymphoma and ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease),” Frank Bove of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and colleagues wrote in their report, published in the online journal Environmental Health. Not very many people who drank the contaminated water have died yet, and so more study will be needed to really nail down the risks, said Bove, a senior epidemiologist at CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. But the findings add to evidence that cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene and trichloroethylene (TCE) caused severe illnesses. TCE is used as a degreaser and a dry-cleaning solvent.
VA Proposes Rules On Payouts for Lejeune Water Contamination
Stars and Stripes, September 12, 2013
The Department of Veterans Affairs filed proposed rules with the Federal Register on Wednesday that would be used to implement part of the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act, which became law a year ago. Public comments on the proposed rule are being solicited until Oct. 11. The law mandates that the VA provide health care to certain veterans and their families who were at Camp Lejeune, N.C., in the last half of the 20th century because of illnesses arising from consumption of contaminated water there. The proposed rules only cover care for veterans; rules for family members will be filed at a later date.
Scientists Confirm Marines’ Poisonous Camp Lejeune Water Wells Date Back to Mid-Century
McClatchyDC, March 15, 2013
Federal health officials continue to uncover excessive levels of previous water contamination at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. A new study of the North Carolina base’s main water system that was released Friday demonstrates a rapidly increasing level of human carcinogens in the drinking water starting as early as 1948 and peaking in the mid-1980s. “These are highest levels of drinking water contamination in this country that I’m aware of,” said Richard Clapp, an epidemiologist at the University of Massachusetts Lowell who’s studied the findings. As many as 1 million Marine veterans and family members may have been exposed to poisoned drinking water. Medical experts have linked the contamination to cancer, birth defects, childhood leukemia and other diseases. The levels of human carcinogens such as trichloroethylene in the water systems were more than 150 times higher than what’s considered safe. “The most likely date that TCE first exceeded its current (maximum contaminant level) is during August 1953; however, this exceedance could have been as early as November 1948,” says the report, by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
Congress Approves Camp Lejeune Relief Act For Water Ailments
The Ledger, July 31, 2012
The U.S. House of Representatives voted Tuesday to approve the Janey Ensminger Act, giving new hope to thousands of Americans with ailments possibly caused by exposure to contaminated water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. The bill directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide health care to veterans, employees and family members who lived or worked at the massive base during the period of documented water contamination from 1957 to 1987. The bill passed in a voice vote, a method reserved for measures that face little opposition. The U.S. Senate has already passed a companion bill. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law. Tuesday’s vote marked a victory for a group of activists, including Mike Partain, a long-time Winter Haven resident. Partain, whose father is a retired Marine, was born at Camp Lejeune and lived there for the first 13 months of his life. Partain, who now lives in Tallahassee, was diagnosed five years ago with breast cancer, a rare condition in men. Though fewer than 2,000 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, Partain said he has discovered 80 male breast cancer patients with connections to Camp Lejeune.
Sick Families of N.C. Military Base Water Contamination May Finally Get Help, 30 Years Later
ABC News, June 28, 2012
Camp Lejeune, a military base in North Carolina, is home to hundreds of thousands of Marines and their families. It’s also the site of what may be the largest water contamination in American history. Now, nearly three decades after poisons were discovered in their drinking water, Congress is set to vote on legislation that will provide health care to those who suffered. From the 1950s to the mid-1980s, the Marines who lived on the base with their families drank water laced with cancer-causing chemicals. Hundreds of thousands of Lejeune residents were exposed over the 30-year stretch. Many died and others are still getting sick today. The Marine Corps doesn’t often talk about the base’s water contamination history. But two men with ties to Camp Lejeune, Jerry Ensminger and Mike Partain, have worked tirelessly to get the word out to Lejeune alumni — maybe as many as a million people — who may have been exposed. For both men, the mission is personal. Ensminger is a career Marine who raised his family at Lejeune. His daughter Janey died of leukemia when she was just 9 years old. She died in 1985, just shy of her 10th birthday. “She said, ‘I love you.’ I said, ‘I know.’ I whispered in her ear, and I said, ‘It’s time to stop fighting,'” he said. “After I had time to sit and think about it, I did what any normal human being would do, I started wondering why,” Ensminger said. “That nagging question of ‘why’ stayed with me through [Janey’s] illness, through her death.”
Lawmakers Blast Navy Over Water Contamination
Tampa Bay Times, April 16, 2011
Five members of Congress on Friday called the Department of the Navy to task — again — for what they say is an apparent resistance to keeping veterans informed about past water contamination at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. In a tartly worded letter to the Navy, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, Sens. Kay Hagan and Richard Burr and Rep. Brad Miller of North Carolina, and Rep. John Dingell of Michigan said the military continues to mislead the public about a high-profile scientific report on the contamination. They also said the Navy appears reluctant to lead veterans and their family members to recent, updated science about the contamination on websites. “We would like to bring to your attention several issues that call into question (the Department of the Navy’s) and (the Marine Corps’) commitment to transparency and veracity in efforts to keep the public informed of ongoing developments related to Camp Lejeune’s historic contaminated drinking water,” the members of Congress wrote to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. The letter is the latest missive in an ongoing bureaucratic battle among military leaders, federal scientists, and veterans and their advocates in Congress.
Fed Scientists Dispute Marine Corps Booklet
Tampa Bay Times, January 31, 2011
The Marine Corps in July released a booklet with a reassuring message for as many as 1 million people who may have been exposed to polluted drinking water at Camp Lejeune, N.C. “To date, the scientific community has not established an association between exposure to the contaminated water and health conditions reported by former residents of Camp Lejeune,” former Corps commandant James Conway says in the booklet. More research, the booklet says, is unlikely to prove a link. But now the federal agency researching one of the nation’s worst public drinking water contaminations is demanding that the Marine Corps withdraw the booklet because its language is “misleading.” “It suggests there is no problem,” said Thomas Sinks, a director of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), in a Jan. 14 letter to the Marine Corps. “It understates the potential hazards from the contaminated drinking water and may discourage individuals from participating in planned research studies.” Sinks wrote, “The presence of known human carcinogens in drinking water support a much more cautious and informative message being conveyed.”
Former Marine Sues Camp Lejeune Over Water Contamination
McClatchyDC, January 24, 2011
A man who served at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune for nearly two years in the 1950s has sued the federal government for $16 million, saying poisonous water at the base caused his cancer. Joel P. Shriberg of Pinehurst, N.C., was diagnosed in 2004 with male breast cancer and had a radical mastectomy on his left breast. The cancer has since metastasized to his lung, according to the suit he filed last week in the U.S. District Court’s Eastern District of North Carolina. Shriberg is one of more than 65 men across the United States who’ve been diagnosed with male breast cancer after serving at Lejeune. He couldn’t be reached for comment. According to his lawsuit, he was a clerk with the 155th Howitzer Division from September 1957 through April 1959, when he was honorably discharged with the rank of colonel. That was when, according to federal and state documents, poisons that included tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene and benzene contaminated Camp Lejeune’s water system. The contamination lasted until the mid-1980s. The contamination violated military standards that included Navy drinking water standards of 1946, the lawsuit claims.
Two Things They Had In Common: Cancer and Camp Lejeune
Tampa Bay Times, January 15, 2011
It seemed as if everyone had a story about illness or death. They filled the room. Men and women with breast cancer. Prostate cancer. Bladder cancer. Disorders of the nervous system. The parents of babies who died days after birth. Husbands and wives who recalled the agony of a loved one. The one thing they shared other than illness brought them to Tampa Saturday: They had all lived at Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base in North Carolina. Up to 250 people, mostly Tampa Bay residents, gathered at the Tampa Marriott Westshore for an informational meeting about what scientists think is one of the worst incidents of drinking water contamination in the nation’s history. The meeting was organized by a law firm seeking clients. But it was two of the leading advocates for the alleged victims of that tainted water who presented the case that the corps ignored stark warnings about pollution and waited four years to close those wells.
Daughter’s Death Drives Marine’s Long Quest for Answers About Tainted Water
Tampa Bay Times, January 9, 2011
Janey Ensminger wanted to be known as the girl who lived. The 9-year-old lay in a North Carolina hospital room in 1985, her body broken by leukemia. Her mouth was covered in sores. Everything hurt. Janey had agreed to take an experimental drug. By doing so, she might help others. With a child’s bottomless store of optimism, she thought her recovery would be long remembered. That was important to her. An aunt recalled Janey saying she “wanted to make a difference.” Two weeks later, Janey died. Her dad, a tough Marine gunnery sergeant, cried by the bed. Janey’s father, Jerry Ensminger, will visit Tampa on Saturday for a meeting of former Tampa Bay Marines, sailors and their families to tell Janey’s story and tell them something it took him years to accept. Ensminger, 58, says his beloved Corps poisoned them. The former Marine says Janey’s death is linked to tainted water at Camp Lejeune, N.C. And for more than a decade, Ensminger has become the public face of what may be one of the worst drinking water contaminations in the nation’s history.
House Hearing to Probe Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
McClatchyDC, September 13, 2010
Thirteen years ago, a federal scientific agency in Atlanta issued a sweeping report on the potential health effects of 30 years’ worth of contaminated water at the big Marine base at Camp Lejeune, N.C. It concluded that exposed adults were unlikely to get cancer from the water. However, the report failed to consider more closely the effects of a key poison: benzene, which is a component of fuel and a chemical known to cause cancer. The omission happened even though scientists had been warned that they were overlooking crucial data, and even though the scientists themselves had reviewed a document that mentioned the benzene contamination. Now the 1997 report has been withdrawn, millions of tax dollars are being spent for more research, and congressional investigators want to know what went wrong. Marine veterans and their families across the U.S. continue to wonder whether a slate of cancers and other illnesses can be connected to their time at Camp Lejeune. “There was evidence that there were very high levels of benzene in the drinking water, and they did not include benzene in the assessment,” said Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C., and the chairman of the oversight subcommittee of the House of Representatives Science and Technology Committee.
VA Quietly Giving Benefits to Marines Exposed to Toxic Water
McClatchyDC, June 20, 2010
Former Marine Corps Cpl. Peter Devereaux was told about a year ago that he had just two or three years to live. More than 12 months later, at 48, he still isn’t ready to concede that the cancer that’s wasting his innards is going to kill him. He swallows his pills and suffers the pain and each afternoon he greets his 12-year-old daughter, Jackie, as she steps off her school bus in North Andover, Mass. The U.S. Department of the Navy says that more research is needed to connect ailments suffered by Marines such as Devereaux who served at Camp Lejeune and their families who lived there to decades of water contamination at the 156,000-acre base in eastern North Carolina. Meanwhile, however, the Department of Veterans Affairs has quietly begun awarding benefits to a few Marines who were based at Lejeune. “Right now, I would venture to say that any Camp Lejeune veteran who files a claim now is presumed to have been exposed to the contaminated drinking water,” Brad Flohr, the assistant director for policy, compensation and pension service at the VA, told a meeting of affected Marines and family members in April. It’s estimated that as many as a million people were exposed to the water from the 1950s to the 1980s. The water was laced with trichloroethylene, known as TCE; tetrachloroethylene, known as PCE; benzene and other volatile organic chemicals. Peter Devereaux doesn’t expect to be around for Jackie’s college years, but he hopes to be able to pay for them. Along with hundreds of other veterans across the country, he’s convinced that contaminated water caused his cancer. “It’s like it’s criminal, you know?” said Devereaux, who has male breast cancer.
Marines Accused of Muzzling Camp Lejeune Criticism
Tampa Bay Times, April 25, 2010
Jerry Ensminger pulled no punches when he accused the Marine Corps of withholding information about Camp Lejeune water pollution in a St. Petersburg Times story last month. About a week later, a Corps general got an audience with the director of the federal Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, which is investigating pollution at the base. It wasn’t long before Ensminger, a member of a panel advising ATSDR on Lejeune water issues, said he got a startling message from the agency: Don’t criticize the Corps. Ensminger and other members of the Community Assistance Panel say it was a breach of public trust for a “major polluter” to get a private session with the very agency investigating one of the worst public drinking water contaminations in U.S. history. The panel, composed largely of former residents of the North Carolina base, provides a voice to civilians who might otherwise be bowled over by large bureaucracies, members say. Ensminger, a retired Marine drill instructor, had planned at the panel’s meeting this Thursday to rebut the Corps’ claims that it has withheld nothing from federal scientists. But that, an ATSDR official told Ensminger in an e-mail, would violate the panel’s “respect rule.” Ensminger was then scratched from the agenda.
Male Breast Cancer Patients Blame Water at Marine Base
CNN, September 24, 2009
The sick men are Marines, or sons of Marines. All 20 of them were based at or lived at Camp Lejeune, the U.S. Marine Corps’ training base in North Carolina, between the 1960s and the 1980s. They all have had breast cancer, a disease that strikes fewer than 2,000 men in the United States a year, compared with about 200,000 women. Each has had part of his chest removed as part of his treatment, along with chemotherapy, radiation or both. And they blame their time at Camp Lejeune, where government records show drinking water was contaminated with high levels of toxic chemicals for three decades, for their illnesses. “We come from all walks of life,” said Mike Partain, the son and grandson of Marines, who was born on the base 40 years ago. “And some of us have college degrees, some of us have blue-collar jobs. We are all over the country. And what is our commonality? Our commonality is that we all at some point in our lives drank the water at Camp Lejeune. Go figure.” Starting in 1980, tests showed drinking water at Camp Lejeune had been “highly contaminated” with solvents. Several wells that supplied water to the base were found to have been contaminated in 1984 and 1985, and were promptly taken out of service after the pollutants were found, the Marine Corps told CNN. Among the chemicals later identified in the drinking water were trichloroethylene, a degreaser; benzene; and the dry cleaning solvent perchloroethylene. Two independent studies have found no link between water contamination and later illnesses, according to the Marine Corps. But the men facing a debilitating and possibly lethal disease don’t buy it.
Camp Lejeune vets suffer from drinking water contamination
Tampa Bay Times, May 29, 2009
The last years of Marine Corps veteran Ian Colin MacPherson’s life were spent fending off one puzzling ailment after another. Rashes. Headaches. Vertigo. Nausea. And finally, the abnormally aggressive prostate cancer that killed the Riverview, Fla., man at age 46 in 2004. MacPherson always figured he must have been poisoned. But by whom? His widow, Jody MacPherson, believes she found the culprit last year: MacPherson’s beloved Marine Corps. “They killed him,” she said. Camp Lejeune, a sprawling Marine base on the North Carolina seaboard, is the site of what some scientists call the worst public drinking-water contamination in the nation’s history. Its water wells were tainted with cancer-causing industrial compounds for 30 years, ending in 1987. An estimated 500,000 to 1 million people — including Marines and family living on base housing — drank, bathed and cooked using that fouled water. Congress has dubbed ill Marines “poisoned patriots,” and in 2008 lawmakers ordered the Marine Corps to notify those who might have been exposed.