Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Camp Superfund

I was stationed at Camp Lejeune in 1965 and '66, during the affected time frame of the contaminated water supply. I have not been affected by it physically - yet - probably because I lived in a barracks that used a different water supply than the on-base dependent housing where most of the problem was. Also, in those days I drank more beer than water.

The Corps covered this up for years and it only came out a very few years ago. I've been involved since then and have participated in the "Historical Water Study" as it's called. The cover-up was reprehensible, and also disappointing in that the Corps threw "Semper Fidelis" out the window to try and avoid the problem of taking care of the Marines and their families that they should have known was going to happen someday, which is now. Learning to handle disappointment is one of the great lessons learned in the Corps, which disappoints Marines every day though seldom at this level.

I was lucky. This gentleman was not:

Lejeune Water Victim Speaks Out

Spina bifida. Asperger's syndrome. Tourette's. Bipolar disorder. Organic brain dysfunction. These are just a few of the diseases William McMurray Jr. suffers from, ailments he says his doctors couldn't explain for the first 20 years of his life -- until they learned of water contamination aboard Camp Lejeune.

His is but one story in what many call the greatest case of contamination in U.S. history. A million Marines, sailors and their families drank, bathed, brushed their teeth, cooked, swam and washed their cars, clothes, dishes and pets in bad water at Lejeune for decades.

The horrors of the contamination weren't understood immediately. One base housing resident reported the unexplainable death of his dog. Another said goldfish always ended up floating at the top of the aquarium. More than 1,000 babies were stillborn or died in infancy aboard the base from 1947 to 1987, according to an exhaustive survey of death certificates filed at the Onslow County Register of Deeds.

The Department of the Navy recommended 50 years ago the regulation of many of the worst chemicals that found their way into Lejeune's water supply, according to 1963's Manual of Naval Preventive Medicine, which was just recently made public.

But throughout the 1960s and 70s, military and civilian employees poured oil into storm drains, improperly disposed of car batteries and tossed out used tires and countless other items around the base, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which recorded an incident involving the burial of dog carcasses used in radiological testing.

[...] When the contamination made headlines, the base's commanding general assured his Marines and their families that their water was safe when chemical levels were among the highest ever seen in a public water system, according to a series of investigative reports published by newspapers in Florida, which is home to more than 12,000 veterans affected by water contamination -- the most of any state except North Carolina.

Go read how they tried to blame the whole deal on an off-base dry cleaner at the same time they had fuel storage tanks losing 1500 gallons per month into the soil. Fuel aside, it was a perfect storm of chemical contamination.

Civilians may have trouble believing that the military would shaft its members and their families like this. Veterans will not.


Oldfool said...

When I joined the Navy in 1958 I intended to make it a career. During the first year I discovered the phrase "bend over and grab your ankles we are about to receive the shaft". By the second year I was in full self protection mode. I made it out honorably but sometimes it was close.
I learned more later when comparing notes with my dad (RIP) who was proud WW2 Navy.
Our military is the best in the world but it is not the military persons best friend.

Gordon said...

I'm proud of my honorable service but I wanted out of that green m**********r so bad I could taste it.

Oldfool said...

Yes and when I got out they would have had to pull off an arm or a leg to get me back and then I would escape.

Gordon said...

As we used to say, I wouldn't have shipped over ten minutes for a fifteen minute coffee break. Heh. Yer takin' me back...