WASHINGTON — Angered by what they consider the military's reticence to reveal all it knows about decades of water contamination on a North Carolina Marine base, lawmakers want to force the Marine Corps and the Navy to produce an inventory of all the documentation scientists need to understand the contamination.
Senators and members of the House have inserted language into the 2011 defense authorization bill that would require Defense Secretary Robert Gates to certify that the military has done so.
More than a million people are thought to have been exposed to the contaminated water from the mid 1950s to the mid 1980s at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Some 156,000 people have registered with the Marines to get information on the contamination, which many say has caused a variety of cancers and other ailments.
The House version of the bill gives the Defense Department 180 days to act; the Senate version offers 90 days.
"The military stalled for three decades," said Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, the top Republican on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.
Accurate science on the poisons' effects could prove crucial in lawsuits against the U.S. government by Marines' family members and to veterans who are trying to receive health benefits related to their service at Camp Lejeune.