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Feb-17-2010 21:05printcomments

Marine Corps Busted Over Benzene Contamination at Lejeune

Marines altered findings of reports that showed extremely high levels of benzene in a base well.

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Salem-News.com

(CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.) - We have been writing for years about the plight of sick and dying Marines who were stationed at the now-closed El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in Southern California, and the active base, Camp Lejuene in North Carolina. In both cases, toxic water has caused a variety of diseases and illnesses among Marines, their families, and others who worked at the base as civilians.

The federal government has been doing its best to duck the issue. Early on, there was recognition of the problems resulting from Camp Lejeune's deadly toxic water contamination, but then a few months ago, the DoD put together a panel of scientists who claimed that all previous data on Lejeune was no longer valid[1].

Since that point, senators and aggressive Veterans Advocates like former Camp Lejeune Marine Jerry Ensminger and Camp Lejeune breast cancer Survivor Mike Partain, have kept the pressure on government officials up. Soon there was another turnaround, as information surfaced that the Marines had essentially, paid for more favorable reports[2].

In some cases they have been responsive, in others they haven't, and sometimes the legislation fails to address the real issues, or makes compromises in the wrong areas[3].

Today The Associated Press shocked the nation by revealing that, "An environmental contractor dramatically underreported the level of a cancer-causing chemical found in tap water at Camp Lejeune, then omitted it altogether as the Marine base prepared for a federal health review."

The AP cites how the Marine Corps was warned nearly a decade earlier about the dangerously high levels of benzene. This chemical is connected to massive leaks from base fuel tanks, according to recently disclosed studies.

In earlier years when the government was more amiable on the issue, the Navy and Marines admitted that there was a problem in the base water supply connected to PCE (perchloroethylene) which reportedly stemmed from an off-base dry cleaner. It was a small admission from the Marines, placed on the shoulders of the scapegoat dry cleaner.

This technically made the Marine Corps itself a victim, but not culpable[4]. Dr. Phil Leveque with Salem-News.com who is a noted Pharmacologist and Forensic Toxicologist, says the dangers from Lejeune are far worse than anyone in the federal government will ever admit[5].

Man, how things turn around.

The truth as it was revealed today, is that Benzene has been killing these Marines, and the information was revealed through part of the broader, ongoing investigation of the contamination[6].

Water samples drawn in 1984, analyzed by scientists, showed benzene in a well near the base's Hadnot Point Fuel Farm. Levels of 380 parts per billion were detected, according to information in water tests.

The contractor summarized the 1984 sampling a year later, by stating that the benzene concentration "far exceeds" a safety limit imposed by federal regulators, at 5 parts per billion.

The AP says water contamination tests were still being conducted in 1991, when a different contractor again warned the U.S. Navy of the serious hazards posed by benzene in these levels.

Eight years later, the ASTDR (federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease), under the Department of Health and Human Services, arrived at Camp Lejeune to conduct an assessment of health risk.

At this point a third contractor, the Michael Baker Corp., released a draft report detailing the feasibility of resolving the serious problem on the base.

That report shows 1984's levels of 380 parts per billion in the well, changing dramatically, to 38 parts per billion. By the time the Michael Baker Corp. released its final report on the well in 1994, the reference to the benzene problem had been totally deleted.

A woman who spent ten years with the EPA as an enforcement officer, before she became an ecologist and environmental attorney, Kyla Bennett, told The AP that it is difficult to see the Baker Corp. documents as innocent mistakes.

"It is weird that it went from 380 to 38 and then it disappeared entirely," she added. "It does support the contention that they did do it deliberately."

Mike Partain, the 42-year old breast cancer survivor who lived at Camp Lejeune, says, "It is a shame that an institution founded on honor and integrity would resort to open deceit in order to protect their reputation at the cost of the health, safety and welfare of its service men, women and their families."[7]

The AP also says a Marine Corps spokesman, Captain Brian Block, "took exception to characterizing the conflicting information in the reports as anything but inadvertent."

A captain? I'm sorry, but that is insulting all by itself. Why on earth would the Marines have a captain, which is an O-3 in the Corps, somebody with a total of two promotions under their belt, answering these questions? I suspect that the Marines just needed to have somebody inadvertently toss himself under the train. It pisses me off to hear of some young captain showing attitude over a question that involves the death and suffering of Marines who lived and died way before this character was ever thought of, let alone born. I wish I had been doing the interview, I really do.

He would have learned a new definition of "indignity" and not one he'd soon forget. This captain's just the latest stooge to toe the line for the dirty elements of the "Crotch", or "The Suck" as we called it in the post Vietnam era. But to get indignant because somebody is asking some questions, that really leaves a stain on the flag.

I'm really glad The AP included that part in their article, it is important. Marines are the most honorable people in the world, but among them are snakes.

I'm not saying that this Marine is one of them, but I do have to wonder. His comment to The AP, "It was probably just a mistake on the part of the contractor, but I can't tell you for certain why that happened" is either tragically ignorant, or a simple extension of the lies about Lejeune that are now seriously starting to haunt Marine Corps leadership.

There are simply too many ghosts for them to contain.

More tests at Camp lejeune conducted by a fourth contractor from June 2007 to August 2009, referenced in The AP article, showed levels in the well at Camp Lejeune at 3,490 parts per billion.

A spokesman for Baker Corp. reportedly declined to discuss the company's reports or why its employees might have revised the benzene levels, The AP said.

Salem-News.com has nine active writers who are former U.S. Marines. Most came to be part of our group because of our ongoing stories exposing the contamination of Camp Lejeune, and more closely El Toro, where our video cameras have shown viewers the old wreck of a base that the city of Irvine and Lennar Corporation planned to convert into luxury homes and a park[8].

The ground is so toxic at El Toro that it will adhere to the tires of your car if you park on top of it in the summer heat[9].

Marines write to Salem-News.com constantly after discovering our more than 50 stories on this subject. We are unrelenting and yes, emotional, because my friends have died and their children have perished from cancer contracted through the bases at El Toro and Camp Lejeune. There is not an ounce of fairness and it is a complicated story, though not that complicated.

In reports about El Toro we have revealed the terribly high levels of TCE (trichloroethylene) and PCE and Benzene, Radon 224 and Enriched Plutonium[10]. We thought Benzene was perhaps the lesser of the problems. Perhaps this knowledge about Lejeune will partly refocus our take on El Toro as well.

There is far too much to share about this. I hope readers will go to The AP story next. Also, know that our archives are easily accessed and the link to them is below. Hold a good thought for the Marines today and know that even if the enemy sometimes wears the same uniform, today was a victory for all Marines, whether they know it or not.

Archival links:

All Salem-News.com stories related to the Marine Corps

Salem-News.com articles about El Toro and Camp Lejeune

References:

[1] Jun-13-2009: National Research Council on TCE Kicks U.S. Marines to the Curb - Tim King Salem-News.com

[2] Nov-06-2009: Report Clearing Marine Corps Connection to Camp Lejeune Sickness was Purchased - Tim King Salem-News.com

[3] Jan-24-2010 : Akaka Proposal for Camp Lejeune Found Unacceptable by Veterans and Their Families - Jerry Ensminger Special to Salem-News.com

[4] Feb-10-2010: Congressional Tug-of-War Over Veterans' Heathcare? - Robert O'Dowd Salem-News.com

[5] May-05-2008: Marine Death Camp: Camp Lejeune Trichlorethylene - the Culprit - Dr. Phil Leveque Salem-News.com

[6] Feb-17-2010: MSNBC: Danger of Marines’ water removed from report

[7] Sep-25-2009: The Few, The Proud, The Damaged - Tim King Salem-News.com

[8] Dec-14-2009: Lejeune and El Toro: 'A Tale of Two Bases' - Robert O'Dowd Salem-News.com

[9] Aug-04-2008: Contaminated Marine Base in Irvine Slated for Public Park and Community Development (VIDEO REPORT) - Tim King Salem-News.com

[10] Aug-06-2009: El Toro Marines Exposed to Radiation - Robert O'Dowd Salem-News.com

=================================================
Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines. Tim holds numerous awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Serving the community in very real terms, Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. You can send Tim an email at this address: newsroom@salem-news.com




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C. Washington February 21, 2010 4:21 pm (Pacific time)

I was stationed at Camp Lejeune between 1982-1984 and have medical issues also, is there anything being done about this issue? Or our are government officials sitting on the lazy arsess doing nothing? Those affected by this should march on washington and demand justice.


BashsMom February 20, 2010 8:26 am (Pacific time)

Dear God! My son and his friends are stationed at Lejeune. This Marine mom can only encourage them to drink and brush with bottled water and only eat food prepared off base. And maybe use a laundromat in town. What is most frightening is that the levels just a few years ago are 10X higher than those taken 26 years ago that were covered up. For all the Marine haters out there, just imagine if it were your child and their "place of business" that was doing this. Oh, and they can't quit their job or ask for a transfer...


jim watters February 19, 2010 10:54 am (Pacific time)

I have been diagnosed with terminal Renal Cell Carcinoma after 2 and 1/2 years at Camp LeJeune. All I can say is the USMC and Dept. of the Navy senior leadership betrayed and abandoned their "wounded", including women and children. Those who continue this fight against against their victims have no shame, honor or integrity. They are more my enemy than those I fought in Vietnam!They discrace the uniform they wear and desrve criminal prosecution!! Thank God the VA decided my disability claim in my favor. The VA decided there was a proven link between my Renal Cell Carcinoma and the TCE-contmainated water I drank at MCBCLNC.


Cat Cottrell February 19, 2010 8:42 am (Pacific time)

I was stationed at Camp LeJuene in 1981 - 1982. My Marine Corps career was brought to an end because shortly after I got there I became very ill. I was not given a medical discharge, but a General Under Honourable Conditions discharge. I have suffered since then. Civilian Doctors don't know how to treat me and I am told I was not in long enough and did not get a medical discharge so i can't get help from the VA. Thank you for reporting this. I only hope all victims get the help and compensation we rightly deserve.


Cat Cottrell February 19, 2010 8:40 am (Pacific time)

I was stationed at Camp LeJuene in 1981 - 1982. My Marine Corps career was brought to an end because shortly after I got there I became very ill. I was not given a medical discharge, but a General Under Honourable Conditions discharge. I have suffered since then. Civilian Doctors don't know how to treat me and I am told I was not in long enough and did not get a medical discharge so i can't get help from the VA. Thank you for reporting this. I only hope all victims get the help and compensation we rightly deserve.


Michael Glenn February 19, 2010 5:45 am (Pacific time)

Thank you for enlightening the world as to how our lives have been taken from us. We need out torts from Oct. 2001 payed now. American Marines, their children and grandchildren are living in poverty because of the Navy's cover up. We have lost our heath, our lives WILL be shortened, we cannot earn a normal living, my blind son gets $670 in SS a month because I served as a Marine. He has never been able to drive, he cannot pay his heat bill he is on food stamps. The torts need to be payed in light of the circumstances. Everything has been taken from people when you destroy their health. Yes we need a hearing and more test, but people need restitution now, not in ten more years, we are poverty stricken because of this and sick on top of it!!! Who can tell the JAG to start paying the torts today? Michael Glenn


Sambolino44 February 18, 2010 10:32 pm (Pacific time)

It does not surprise me that any military service would allow its troops to be poisoned. It allows them to be shot at regularly.


raay February 18, 2010 8:54 pm (Pacific time)

It's difficult to believe that the USMC would knowingly allow their own soldiers and their families to drink and bathe in cancer-causing contaminated H20, but the evidence is... they did! I guess it's all about money and dishonor on the part of the USMC. What country in the world would poison their own military?


Warren February 18, 2010 5:33 pm (Pacific time)

As one of the many marines stationed at Camp Lejeune and El Toro during the Vietnam era, I developed non-hodgkins lymphoma as a result of the water contamination at one or both of these bases. This is the opinion of my oncologist who is a VA physician. My life has been turned upside down, financially and emotionally, due to this disease. I appreciate the various media outlets carrying this story and I hope it will enable the Marines affected by the water contamination at Camp Lejeune and other military bases to receive the health care and disability benefits they deserve.


Candy Little February 18, 2010 3:27 pm (Pacific time)

Great job Tim, as usual. Ever wonder whose hand is up Block's butt making his lips move. Who knew you could get free chemo!!


Bob February 18, 2010 3:26 pm (Pacific time)

Has Captain Block lost his mind or what? If this guy believes the crap he's putting out, break out the toilet paper. Let's face it. They got caught with their pants down. The sight ain't pretty. Good reporting, Tim.


camplejeuneh2ovictim2 February 18, 2010 10:10 am (Pacific time)

Thank you so very much for helping to give the victims a voice and in trying to get the word out!!


Jessica February 18, 2010 9:52 am (Pacific time)

Thank you for carrying this story. This water contamination has affected more than people realize.


Jimmy February 18, 2010 4:43 am (Pacific time)

You Rock.....Captain Block deserved a slap upside his head and you gave it to him. I've read all your posts in the past year and your commitment to bring the truth out is appreciated by all the victims.....Jimmy


aaron February 18, 2010 9:46 am (Pacific time)

The few the proud the forgotten: Sick over cover up od the USMC's toxic water.


Andrew Lang February 18, 2010 7:58 am (Pacific time)

I was stationed at Lejeune for just under two years in the early 2000s, and had heard rumors of this. It makes me so said to know that I was part of organization that was supposedly designed on honor and integrity that knowingly lied and poised it's members and their families. I feel as though all the things that made me proud to be a marine are nothing more than unfounded lies. This is a sad day for Marines everywhere.


AndreaTFTPTF February 18, 2010 7:07 am (Pacific time)

Thank you so much for your continued coverage Tim! To find out more about the water contamination at Camp Lejeune, please visit the website of The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten at www.tftptf.com. TFTPTF's site was formed by Jerry Ensminger and Jeff Byron, 2 Marines whose families have been affected. On TFTPTF's site you will find a historical documents library, illness registry, photo gallery and discussion board.


David Bedworth February 18, 2010 6:48 am (Pacific time)

23 years in the Corps and now I suffer from brain, prostate and skin cancer. I am disabled and have had benefits denied by the VA through lack of evidence of service-connected disability. Yes, I worked at Hadnot Point during the 1980's and would have been exposed to incredibly high levels of benzene (a Class A Carcinogen). Does anyone at the VA read?


Janeane Hall February 18, 2010 6:34 am (Pacific time)

Thank you for covering this story! My father is a Marine and we lived at Camp Lejeune during the late 70's. My whole family including my nieces and nephews have been affected by the contamination.


jack Handrick February 18, 2010 6:28 am (Pacific time)

In 2001 I had a tumar removed from my pelvis. I now live on pain pills. I do remember the day one of the they told us to stop drinking the water for a week or so, but it was allright to shower and do wash. Just think if I would have went into the army and not the Marine's. Would I still on Pain pills. I'm shure the goverment will wait untill most are dead before they do anything.


Chuck Palazzo February 18, 2010 5:49 am (Pacific time)

Tim, et al Great series and thanks to the AP its not just a "few of us great men and women" who have been victims, complaining, dying and who are yet to be diagnosed with something related. Before Vietnam, it was LeJeune for me, than returning to the US, I ended up at El Toro - lets sprinkle some Agent Orange in between those two duty stations - man, talk about walking death just waiting to happen. Doom and gloom? No! Fact. We all know that these Captains and even some Field level and higher "officers" were military flunkys, "sir, yes sir" was all they knew, and that's what we ended up with as base and Corps spokespeople. The Commandant MUST come out with a public statement and soon - further, the DVA better ramp up even further to get ready for even more claims - and this time actually do something about it - lest we die waiting! Semper fi! Chuck


USMC_WLH1975 February 18, 2010 2:30 am (Pacific time)

A great story. Thanks. It is important to remember that the leadership of the Marine Corps has been involved in polluting the land and water on these bases since before Tarawa and Iwo Jima!! They were involved in covering up their mistakes and miscalculations since before the Vietnam war ended. They knew of the massive levels of contaminants in Lejeune and hid them since before I was stationed at Cherry Point and sent to Lejeune several times on work assignments in the mid 1970s. The leadership levels of the Corps have known of the leaks at the fuel farms and they have taken active measures to hide this information both from the public and from other parts of the government charged with watch dogging public safety! So, we have a Corps composed of both Hero and Scoundrel! We have a Corps that has things to be proud of and things to hide in shame under a rock over. The only thing which will remove this taint from the sullied image of the Corps is to shine the light of justice and public scrutiny into these dark crevasses and root out the evil and corruption there. The Corps deserves this attention so that it may be restored to the shining example of toughness and honor and integrity which it once enjoyed as one of the finest fighting forces in the world and a place where everyday Heroic men and women put it all on the line for American interests and Freedom around the world!


Osotan; February 17, 2010 10:27 pm (Pacific time)

Good solid straight right to the solar plexus.,be sure to say sir as the correspondant begins the second phase, a left hook centered between his right lower jaw-cheek bone protrusion .,slightly jarring the captains composure as he lays on the deck.,face up staring at the overhead fan. USMC General J.L. Jones ought to be informed. Thanks S-N. Keep it rolling.

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