The Marine Corps won't withdraw or immediately revise a booklet about water pollution at Camp Lejeune, N.C., that critics say contains errors and omissions.
Scientists at the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry had urged the Corps to withdraw the booklet because of "misleading" language that might lead some to think the water pollution isn't a problem. Several members of Congress also called on the Corps to withdraw the booklet or fix inaccuracies.
But after a meeting Tuesday between Corps representatives and staff from several congressional offices, the Marine Corps stopped short of acknowledging inaccuracies and said the booklet would be revised in July "to keep it current."
The spokesman, Lt. Gregory Wolf, said, "In keeping with our commitment to find answers and keep our Marines and families informed, we will gladly consider input from any reliable scientific source" as it considers possible revisions.
The Corps did not take the booklet down from its website and did not address whether it would continue to distribute it.
Wolf said those at the meeting discussed ways to improve communication among parties with a stake in the issue.
Scientists from the federal agency were especially critical of an item in the booklet saying there was no established link between polluted water and illnesses reported by former residents.
"It suggests there is no problem," Thomas Sinks, a director of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, said in a Jan. 14 letter to the Marine Corps. "It understates the potential hazards from the contaminated drinking water and may discourage individuals from participating in planned research studies."
Lejeune's water was contaminated for at least 30 years ending in 1987. Pollutants included carcinogens such as benzene, an ingredient in gasoline.
More than 14,000 Floridians have signed up for a Corps registry on the contamination.
Former Marine Corps drill instructor Jerry Ensminger, whose daughter died of leukemia in 1985, is one of the leaders of a group of former base residents who have urged the federal government to study health effects.
"If they're truly trying to find the best ways to communicate and get answers, they should try honesty first," Ensminger said.
William R. Levesque can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3432.