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Pressure Building Over Excessive Benzene Contamination at Camp Lejeune Marine BaseTim King Salem-News.com
Benzene in tap water at Marine Corps base Camp Lejeune was downplayed and omitted from official documents.
(CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.) - The sands are shifting under the feet of Marine Corps and Navy officials who kept the truth about deadly Benzene poisoning at Camp Lejeune off the radar, until now. It was revealed last week that officials modified the numbers over the Benzene concentration that, according to a study from 25 years ago, "far exceeds" safety limits imposed by federal regulations.
There is no doubt that the Navy is feeling the heat.
Political pressures are causing the agency to cave in some areas of resistance, and it now appears that there is no way to continue the charade that has kept this severe, deadly, cancer causing problem under wraps.
U.S. Senator Kay R. Hagan (D-NC) spoke up today about the Department of Navy's decision to fund the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) mortality study on contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.
The ATSDR is a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"For months, I have been pressing the Navy to fund the mortality study. It is the key to determining whether there were higher mortality rates for active duty marines and their families who lived at Camp Lejeune during the years of water contamination."
For a large number of Marines and their family members, alive and dead, there is no question as to what happened, particularly after last week's revelation by The Associated Press, that the Marine Corps had drastically altered the levels of Benzene in a report about a base well at Camp Lejeune, a problem which has only grown worse over time, while remaining very quiet, until now.
Hagan said, "I am pleased the Navy has listened and now is taking this crucial step. The findings will help bring answers to our Lejeune families who deserve closure on this issue."
Navy Fights Funding of Studies
But the story certainly doesn't end there. Another North Carolina Senator, Richard Burr, has kept the pressure up for Marines along with Hagan. So far he has managed to block two Navy Department presidential appointees as the battle over funding moved forward. Burr's Spokesman David Ward says the senator remains focused on getting the Navy to pick up the cost for all the studies.
Money for a health survey of Camp Lejeune residents is still needed. It seems amazing that the military is able to spend so much fighting wars overseas, but when it comes to an amount like $92,000, required for the reanalysis of an existing study of pregnancy issues like mean birth weight and also preterm birth, the Navy fought tooth and nail.
It is the long and ugly story of governmental bureaucrats covering up evidence of toxic contamination that kills Marines; the Navy behind every move, along with the Department of Defense; agencies that look at the water contamination issues regarding both Lejeune and the now closed El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in California, as pure financial liability.
They know anything they admit regarding the base contamination will make the federal government responsible, so the stream of lies, followed by Marine officers becoming "indignant" over reporters' questions, continues.
The Navy did agree to fund a water modeling project that will cost almost $2 million. That will be used to determine how underground water actually flows at the base, and reveal how toxins would have been introduced, and spread.
The Associated Press says requests for comment from the Marine Corps were not returned.
North Carolina congressman Rep. Brad Miller is also paying close attention to the Camp Lejeune issue, and the revelations that the Marine Corps has been misleading the nation for many years while blaming medical problems and deaths in the base water supply, on PCE (perchloroethylene) in the water, which they attributed conveniently to an off base dry cleaner.
He is familiar with the excessive number of male breast cancer patients, over 55 at last count connected to Camp Lejeune. This according to Dr. Phil Leveque, Salem-News.com writer and also a noted Physician, Pharmacologist and Forensic Toxicologist, is an extremely high number of occurrences for a single location.
Mike Partain can tell you all about it, he's a breast cancer survivor, and a constant warrior in the fight to bring justice and recognition to the Camp Lejeune issues.
Former career Marine Jerry Ensminger, who lost his daughter Janey to cancer connected to the North Carolina base, can tell you even more.
Then there are all of the other contacts who have shared horror stories of illnesses related to Camp Lejeune. There are the stories of how during the Vietnam War, the Marine Corps began refusing to bury stillborn infants, instead insisting that they were cremated. The reason? One Marine wife who lost her child at Lejeune in the late 1960's, says stillborn infants were filling up cemeteries in the area so fast that the Marines knew it was creating an unmistakable sign of the base's deadly toxicity. She says the moms lost, and for a period of time infants were all cremated.
Miller is requesting a House science subcommittee investigation of the reports mentioned above, that the presence of benzene in tap water at Marine Corps base Camp Lejeune were downplayed and omitted from official documents, as reported by The AP.
Beyond Lejeune and El Toro
The problems from Camp Lejeune, like El Toro, typically do not stay on base, instead the water based problems are carried off site by underground water tables. If it takes this long to simply prove that the Marine Corps has been lying about problems, and the Navy keeps fighting amounts less than $100k, then it is going to be a long fight. The people who live near these bases likely won't be warned about possible health effects any time soon.
And what about other bases and non-military locations where Benzene was allowed to contaminate the ground? Jill McElheney, a mom in Georgia, is circulating a Petition to Expand Camp LeJeune Federal Probe on Benzene Exposures.
She wrote to Congressman Miller, thanking him for calling for the federal probe yesterday on the benzene poisoning from contaminated water that Camp LeJeune Marines and their families were knowingly exposed to Benzene.
"I would like to appeal to you to broaden the investigation to include citizens as well who lived near similar storage facilities and had children to come down with forms of childhood leukemia as my son in Athens, GA."
McElheney says she scheduled an appointment with her Congressman, Dr. Paul Broun in 2009, to bring evidence of her claims. That came after an ATSDR Hearing Chaired by Miller, who sat as ranking member.
She said, "For some reason, they never showed nor informed me afterwards why they didn't keep the appointment."
She sent Miller a link to an article from a two part series by the Washington Independent, that highlights her son's story and his exposure to benzene.
"Given Camp LeJeune's ATSDR Public Health Assessment (PHA) was rescinded for the benzene exposures being omitted, isn't it fair to ask that other similar health documents issued by ATSDR also be withdrawn?"
Elected Officials & Media Helping Marines:
In the past, media has largely ignored the contamination of Camp Lejeune and El Toro, but the Internet is allowing quick and easy access to stories today that reveal the true nature of what is taking place.
Traditional reporters from groups like The AP, and newspapers in North Carolina in particular, are doing their jobs well and making the Marine Corps come clean with the facts, whether they like it or not. Same with the Orange County Register regarding El Toro, their staff has had their eye on the base contamination issue for a few years now.
The Senators and Congressman mentioned in this report have the backs of these Marines, so do the state's media groups. We may be seeing the unsavory side of a treasured military organization, but also the incredible results of a free national press.
Sep-25-2009: The Few, The Proud, The Damaged - Tim King Salem-News.com
 March-18-2008: Part Two: Toxin Agency Uses ‘Unscientific Method’ The Washinton Independent
References and Archival links:
Feb-17-2010: MSNBC: Danger of Marines’ water removed from report
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: email@example.com
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