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Marine Corps pressured to withdraw 'misleading' booklet

North Carolina and Florida lawmakers are pressuring the Marine Corps to revise or withdraw a booklet it sent to every member of Congress with information on Camp Lejeune, N.C., water contamination.

Staff for a half dozen members of Congress, including Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., have scheduled a meeting with Corps and Navy officials on Tuesday to discuss a booklet federal scientists call "misleading."

The St. Petersburg Times reported Jan. 31 that federal scientists researching Lejeune pollution demanded the booklet's withdrawal because they think it may make their work more difficult.

Among other things, the Corps says in the booklet that scientists are unlikely to link polluted water to diseases reported by former residents of the base.

"It suggests there is no problem," said Thomas Sinks, a director of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in a Jan. 14 letter to the Marine Corps and Navy. "It understates the potential hazards from the contaminated drinking water and may discourage individuals from participating in planned research studies."

A Marine Corps spokesman said a response to Sinks' letter was being prepared.

"We continue to work with Congress to keep them apprised of ongoing efforts regarding Camp Lejeune … drinking water issues," said Lt. Gregory Wolf, a Marine spokesman.

Nelson spokesman Bryan Gulley said the senator thinks the booklet needs to either be taken out of circulation or corrected.

In addition to Congress, the Corps sent the booklet to 4,125 of the nearly 170,000 people who have signed up for a Corps registry because they think they were exposed to the water. It also tops a list of resources on a Marine Corps website.

The Corps, which is overseen by the U.S. Navy, released the booklet in July. From the start, critics have called it a deceptive and inaccurate account of what is one of the worst public drinking water contaminations in the nation's history.

For 30 years ending in 1987, Lejeune water was tainted with a brew of chemicals, including solvents and a dangerous by-product of gasoline.

"Telling people that everything is okay, there may be some problems but we're not sure … really is very harmful to the people who have been exposed to that drinking water," Rep. Brad Mill, D-N.C., told McClatchy Newspapers on Monday.

William R. Levesque can be reached at levesque@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3432.

Marine Corps pressured to withdraw 'misleading' booklet 02/01/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 2, 2011 6:47am]

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