WASHINGTON — Five members of Congress on Friday called the Department of the Navy to task — again — for what they say is an apparent resistance to keeping veterans informed about past water contamination at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
In a tartly worded letter to the Navy, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, Sens. Kay Hagan and Richard Burr and Rep. Brad Miller of North Carolina, and Rep. John Dingell of Michigan said the military continues to mislead the public about a high-profile scientific report on the contamination.
They also said the Navy appears reluctant to lead veterans and their family members to recent, updated science about the contamination on websites.
"We would like to bring to your attention several issues that call into question (the Department of the Navy's) and (the Marine Corps') commitment to transparency and veracity in efforts to keep the public informed of ongoing developments related to Camp Lejeune's historic contaminated drinking water," the members of Congress wrote to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.
The letter is the latest missive in an ongoing bureaucratic battle among military leaders, federal scientists, and veterans and their advocates in Congress.
At stake are ongoing scientific studies that could determine just how, and how badly, several contaminants might have affected the health of people who lived and worked at Camp Lejeune until the 1980s.
Among other things, the lawmakers said the Navy has mischaracterized a 2009 report by the National Academy of Sciences' National Research Council. The NRC report found no concrete link between the chemicals trichloroethylene and tetrachloroethylene and a host of ailments suffered by veterans and family members. The report has been criticized by other scientists.
The lawmakers said the Navy has wrongly indicated that the NRC did assess benzene, a known cancer-causing chemical that was a significant contaminant in the water.
It is estimated that a million people were exposed to contaminated drinking water at the base until poisoned wells were shut down in 1984.