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May-30-2008 03:05printcomments

Federal Agency Money Bickering Could Spell Doom for Sick Marines

A squabble between the Navy and researchers threatens funding of a vital study that can help Marines rendered sick and worse by water contamination.

Camp Lejeune
Photo courtesy: Story Corps

(SALEM, Ore.) - We reported recently that thousands of Marines and their families, as well as civilian employees at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, are sick from contaminated water on the Marine Corps base. (see: Marine Death Camp: Camp Lejeune Trichlorethylene - the Culprit) Now word is out that the completion of a government water contamination study that is underway is threatened; as the program is half a million dollars short.

For the last several months military and federal health officials have squabbled over the money according to former Marine Robert O'Dowd, who along with a growing number of other advocates are paying close attention. It has been announced that the groups might be able to reach agreement by Sunday. That would stop the study from being derailed.

That would be good, because it stands to affect claims by over a thousand former residents of Camp Lejeune who seek nearly $10 billion in damages from the government over health problems attributed to exposure to TCE contaminated water at the base through the mid-1980s.

TCE in the Water

The study is extremely important and is years in development. The Associated Press reported that "The Navy Office of the Judge Advocate General is awaiting results of the health study before acting on the claims. The Marines estimate that 500,000 Camp Lejeune residents may have been exposed to the tainted water, including thousands of Vietnam-bound Marines."

There appear to be different sources for the TCE that entered the water supply at Camp Lejeune. Trichloroethane is a chemical that was used to clean airplane parts and for many other industrial purposes, and it is highly toxic.

The same problem, water-based TCE contamination is also affecting Marines who served at the now-closed El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in Southern California. In that case Marines were also exposed to TCE vapors while working on the flightline.

Too Many Stillborn Babies

In the article cited above, Dr. Phil Leveque relates the story of a woman whose husband in 1970 was a 24-year old Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

This Marine wife became pregnant and had what seemed to be a healthy and normal, full-term pregnancy. But the baby was stillborn and to the doctors and nurses present, it made little sense.

The woman told me that another Marine Corps wife that she knew had the same exact thing happen; her baby was stillborn after a normal pregnancy. This particular mom wanted to have an inscribed headstone and a proper burial for the stillborn infant and the command at Camp Lejeune objected and fought the mother for a year.

In each case, when then new mother gave birth, the doctor greeted them with a similar, "the baby's dead" which shocked both women, and ultimately linked them together.

In retrospect, it appears that there were so many babies stillborn on this Marine Corps base in North Carolina that the real number would have been staggering, and it is also fairly clear that the command was doing everything possible to avoid having a whole section of the cemetery filled with graves of babies.

The woman and her husband did not press the issue, and she suspects that most Marines and their wives were talked out of burying stillborn infants. The government needs to produce vital records that do exist and so far nobody is making that task an easy one.

Her husband, a perfectly healthy and strong Marine, contracted Lymphocitic Leukemia, cancer of the blood and bone marrow, and died a short time later at the age of 25.

It is no wonder she joins O'Dowd and other point people today in the effort to bring fairness and honesty to the people that have suffered due to what is obviously a clear mistake of the Marine Corps and the Navy.

Lives Hang in the Balance

The AP reports that the Navy has hesitated issuing the payment because the health agency didn't follow Navy reporting and planning procedures and sufficiently detail its spending. It appears that the Navy would turn its back on its own responsibility to the affected Marines over a technicality.


There was an apparent flurry of heated exchanges between officials over the matter that spanned from December until this month.

The study is being conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. They have confirmed that the research would be placed in jeopardy if the Navy refuses to pay the $522,000, and that only guarantees that the study will continue beyond Sunday.

"We fully understand our responsibility," Richard Mach, a top Navy environmental official, told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday. He indicated that there may have been misunderstanding and appeared to back peddle, saying, "We are not trying to delay this."

The purpose of the important and endangered study, is specifically to investigate cancer and birth defects among babies born to women at Camp Lejeune prior to the closure of the contaminated wells in the mid-1980s. It only includes mothers who lived at the base during the course of their pregnancies.

This is not the only study that health officials have planned. At this point the study has indicated that solvents from a dry cleaner located next to the base as well as on-base industrial activity resulted in tainted groundwater for a span of approximately 30 years.

It seems like resolution in the Camp Lejeune case will take time either way, but the idea of ending the study right now over an amount that we spend every day fighting the war in Iraq, is nothing short of a slap on the face of the Marines who served there, and they aren't the only ones.

It appears that TCE contamination affects many more military installations throughout the United States than have been identified, particularly air bases. Closing the lid on the Camp Lejeune study would delay any resolution for at least a year, Navy officials admitted. For a problem that has already claimed so many lives, that seems far too long.


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. Today, in addition to his role as a war correspondent in Afghanistan where he spent the winter of 2006/07, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website, affiliated with Google News and several other major search engines and news aggregators. Tim's coverage from Iraq that was set to begin in April has been delayed and may not take place until August, 2008. You can send Tim an email at this address: newsroom@salem-news.com




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MARREECE DEAN May 27, 2014 8:56 pm (Pacific time)

Through all the tort claims in Washington, DC on the desk of Mr.Russell, can anyone affiliated with the contamination water at Camp LEJEUNE let us all know what phase this is in if any? This is not going to just die off, it will come to a conclusion. Please get more voiceful up in this matter to keep us informed more openly..Especially those legislators that knows what is going on--Open up to the veterans. We are not going away legislators. when it becomes cooled off--something has TAKENED place! Either paid or the pay kept(:marreeceldean@yahoo.com


Marreece Dean April 3, 2012 11:40 am (Pacific time)

Can anyone tell me what they are doing about the SF-95 we submitted and projected the amount on the form? Is this part of the procedure because my tort claim is on the desk of Mr. Russell who says he is awaiting the test results back of the contaminate water. Mine was received at his desk in September 2009.


Richard - USN Devil Doc Ret. June 1, 2008 1:28 pm (Pacific time)

Yes the government always takes the long way out. If national health care will be anything like the VA it would be a disaster. A lot of it amounts to Supervised Neglect. Not necessarily from a doctor's part, but from the beaucratic procedural aspect. These Vets should immediately file a claim if they feel they are sick. It will be denied, but the Veteran can keep it alive as long as they do not let the one year time lapse happen. Keep refiling. There is a thing called "exacerbating" cause. This means that even if the harm is not totally from one cause, the pathology was "partly" from their military experience. If anything comes from the next years of red tape, the Veteran or his family if he dies will be paid from the date the claim was originated. The government will string this out figuring many will be dead before they recognize the problem was a factor in the Veteran's pathology.


Carol May 30, 2008 9:10 pm (Pacific time)

The Poisoned Patriots of Camp Lejeune asked Congress to either insist that the study be funded or that they evaluate, at government expense, the health of everyone who drank the water. I see that they took the long way out. The


CANDY May 31, 2008 7:16 am (Pacific time)

WHEN YOU LOSE A CHILD OR ANY LOVED ONE FOR THAT MATTER, IT IS DEVASTATING. WHEN WE LOST OUR DAUGHTER, MY HUSBAND, GEORGE DIDN'T KNOW WHAT TO SAY TO ME. EVEN THOUGH WE BOTH LOST A CHILD, HE KNEW IT WAS DIFFERENT FOR ME. I REMEMBER OVER-HEARING A CONVERSATION HE HAD WITH MY MOTHER, HE SAID, " WHAT CAN I DO TO FIX THIS, I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO SAY TO HER", AND MY MOTHER SAID TO HIM, " JUST KEEP ON LOVING HER, JUST LIKE YOU ALWAYS HAVE BEEN." SO WHEN WE GOT HOME FROM THE HOSPITAL IT WAS VERY HARD FOR BOTH OF US, SO THE NEXT DAY GEORGE WENT OUT AND BOUGHT ME A PUPPY, THAT WAS HIS WAY OF REPLACING WHAT, HE FELT, I LOST. THAT WAS JUST THE SWEETEST THING. IT GOES TO SHOW YOU HOW A MANS MIND WORKS IN TIME OF GREAT LOSS.
TIM, THANK FOR THE TALK AND ALL THE ARTICLES YOU HAVE DONE, "YOU'RE THE GREATEST!".


Bob O'Dowd May 30, 2008 3:23 pm (Pacific time)

I wish all of the Camp Lejeune Marines and their families the best of luck. If you want to kill something, call for a committee to study it to death. The Navy and Marine Corps have done a “super job” in not supporting Marines, Sailors, and their dependents at Camp Lejeune. I know the people seriously ill (I’m not talking about a sore throat, but heavy duty illness like cancer) are frustrated by the seemingly endless delays in the process. Now, the Navy refuses to pay a half million dollars to complete the study of TCE on cancer and birth defects among babies born to women at Camp Lejeune and the mothers who lived at the base during the course of their pregnancies. I can’t wait until the Navy and Marine Corps are involved in reviewing the effects of TCE/PCE contamination on Marines and Sailors at former MCAS El Toro. The TCE toxic plume at El Toro was discovered off base in 1985 by Orange County Health Department employees. Nine years later (not exactly a rapid pace), the Navy and Marine Corps traced the origin of the contamination to the highly industrialized portion of the base. Ground zero was Bldgs. 296 and 297—two huge maintenance hangars built in 1944. I worked in Bldg. 296 as a young Marine in the 1960s. As a veteran, I’m prevented by the Supreme Court’s FERES doctrine from filing a tort suite against the government for injuries incurred on active duty. Fair enough. The only recourse is to file a VA disability compensation claim. Oh, by the way, I recently recovered from Stage 2/3 bladder cancer (linked to PCE in the drinking water) and have had several prostate surgeries and other medical conditions linked to TCE/PCE exposure. If I live long enough and the VA finds me disabled from El Toro’s TCE/PCE contamination, I may be able to leave a small stipend for my spouse. I’m assuming that the Navy and Marine Corps don’t insist on a lengthy and inconclusive study to support the VA and SF-95 claims of El Toro Marines and their dependents. Don’t bet the farm on it.


Brice May 30, 2008 3:06 pm (Pacific time)

It seems that this new G.I. Bill should be set up where those who served in actual combat versus those who didn't should get a larger amount of benefit. Of course one has to provide a workable definition of what constitutes combat, but that really would not be that difficult and afterall combatants should receive a superior benefit.


Henry Ruark May 30, 2008 11:22 am (Pacific time)

Vic et al: Please note that new "GI Bill" finance in full demands only what FOUR DAYS of Iraq "preemptive-attack" war is costing us --with worldwide gas-costs due largely to war impacts now running at strongly authoritative SIX TRILLION. moresoon in Op Ed upcoming re new "GI Bill" as demanded next-step to set things right re vets while opening door to same renaissance impacts as for original GI Bill, followed in due course by National Defense Education Act bringing millions-on-millions to every state educational system for math, science, foreign language consultants and very essential learning media.


Carol May 30, 2008 11:20 am (Pacific time)

Vic, It now seems that you're beginning to get the picture! Veterans, their children, grandchildren and spouses have been discarded to a profit driven, dysfunctional health care system. Doctors don't believe that Camp Lejeune's contamination happened. There is documentation of water contamination (far beyond current safety standards) at Camp Lejeune. Even with such documentation, Camp Lejeune's victims are sometimes labeled as hypochondriacs. Doctors just don't believe that it happened. If they do believe, many don't know how to help people who have been contaminated with some combination of at least 70 contaminants. Many of Camp Lejeune's victims don't know why they're so sick because the DoD and Navy have not notified most of the victims. They are supposed to be notifying people now. I talked to a local man whose brother got notification that said the contamination was not so bad. It gave the impression that its no big deal. You try walking into a doctor's office and tell him that you were severely contaminated, along with nearly 1 million other people, by the Navy at Camp Lejeune! Remember, there is documentation of the contamination at Camp Lejeune! Do you think that you will be taken seriously? Now try telling a doctor that you got contaminated at a base where the documentation is not as obvious! Do you see our situation? Many are simply too sick to work. Many caregivers are overwhelmed! Some whole families are sick, dying and dead. Please contact your senators and representative and tell them what an outrage this is.


Vic May 30, 2008 7:20 am (Pacific time)

The study is being held up because of a half-million dolllars? We give 28 times that to Israel EVERY SINGLE DAY ! I say take care of our own first!! Thinking about joining the military? Better hope to Hell you dont get hurt or sick....sounds like you'll be on your own.

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