Florida's U.S. senators are urging the military to fund a mortality study at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to see if polluted water caused health problems for those who lived and worked there.
The Navy, which has oversight of Lejeune, a Marine Corps base, has not yet committed to funding such a study, though the Navy and Corps have agreed to pay for $2.1 million in scientific work relating to polluted water during 2010, according to documents.
In a letter Wednesday to Ray Mabus, secretary of the Navy, the U.S. senators from Florida, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican George LeMieux, said, "We have an obligation to the men and women who serve our country and their families to investigate this matter to the fullest extent."
Up to a million people were exposed to drinking water contaminated with industrial solvents at Camp Lejeune for 30 years ending in 1987.
More than 12,000 Floridians who lived at the base have signed up for a Corps health registry, more than any state except North Carolina.
The senators joined their colleagues in North Carolina — Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican, and Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat — in asking for the mortality study, which will focus on death rates of Lejeune residents to see if residents died at a rate higher than what would be expected.
The senators noted that the Navy is required by law to fund health studies, and they said they were concerned that no commitment has yet been made to finance the mortality work.
"These studies are integral to a comprehensive understanding of the effects stemming from human exposure to contaminants at Camp Lejeune," the letter said.
The Navy and Corps could not be reached for comment. The Corps has said it has spent $14 million on scientific efforts relating to contaminated water.
The discovery of a startling cancer cluster at Camp Lejeune has sparked renewed concern about the health of Marines and their families who lived at the North Carolina base.
A Tallahassee man born at the base in 1968 who was diagnosed with rare breast cancer says he has identified more than 50 other men who lived at Camp Lejeune who have since been diagnosed with the uncommon disease. Those numbers have startled some epidemiologists, who call for more study.
William R. Levesque can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3432.