Saturday, December 16, 2017
News Roundup

Report: Camp Lejeune water highly contaminated with carcinogens

For much of Camp Lejeune's history, its drinking water was contaminated by potent carcinogens at levels rarely if ever seen in a large water system, a new federal report shows.

A study by scientists at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry shows vinyl chloride and trichloroethylene (TCE) in water at the North Carolina Marine Corps base reached levels 33 to 153 times higher than what federal regulators today consider safe.

These compounds originate from several potential sources, including industrial solvents used at the base.

A copy of the report was obtained Thursday by the Tampa Bay Times. When it is publicly released today, it is expected to renew health concerns for the up to 1 million people who lived and worked at Lejeune from 1953 to 1985, when water was polluted. That includes tens of thousands of Floridians.

Many of those who drank, bathed and cooked with the fouled water have reported a range of cancers, from bladder and liver cancers to more than 80 men diagnosed with rare breast cancer.

"The findings are dramatic," said Richard Clapp, an epidemiologist who peer-reviewed the study and has advised the scientific agency on Camp Lejeune water issues. "These contaminant levels are extraordinarily high. Camp Lejeune is the most highly contaminated drinking water in the U.S. that I'm aware of.

"I think (the report) confirms the concerns people had all along — that this was a highly contaminated water source for lots and lots of people."

The Marine Corps would not yet comment. Capt. Kendra Motz, a spokeswoman, said, "I'm unable to comment on a report that has not been officially published by ATSDR."

It long has been known Camp Lejeune water was contaminated. But this report draws into sharper focus the scale and intensity of it.

"These levels are unprecedented in the history of modern-day drinking water systems," said former Marine drill instructor Jerry Ensminger, whose 9-year-old daughter, Janey, died of leukemia in 1985 that be believes was triggered by this polluted water.

"After nearly 16 years of involvement on this issue," Ensminger said, "this report is vindication and validation of what I've said all along."

The Corps has previously argued these contaminants were not regulated until the late 1980s and that it closed tainted water wells as soon as contamination was confirmed.

But documents show the Corps' own regulations, starting in 1963, barred the use of water with these contaminants, critics say.

And other military bases in the 1970s closed wells tainted with "unregulated" solvents, including Willow Grove Naval Air Station and the Warminster Naval Air Warfare Center, both in Pennsylvania.

The agency study is a "water model" that estimates contaminant levels at Camp Lejeune based on data from tens of thousands of federal and state documents during periods when water testing wasn't conducted. The model is a reconstruction of contaminant levels, but Clapp said it is "state of the art" and considered highly reliable.

This report examines contamination levels at Camp Lejeune's Hadnot Point and Holcomb Boulevard water supply systems. During much of the base's history, they served wide swaths of Camp Lejeune.

"Historical reconstruction . . . provide(s) considerable evidence that concentrations of several contaminants of interest in finished water . . . substantially exceeded current" thresholds of what is considered safe, the report said.

The report found:

• TCE levels in tap water exceeded safe levels from August 1953 to January 1985 with the highest level, 783 parts per billion, coming in November 1983. The maximum contaminant level of TCE today considered safe by federal regulators is 5 ppb.

• Vinyl chloride, perhaps the most toxic substance found in drinking water, exceeded safe levels from November 1972 to January 1985 with the highest level of 67 ppb coming in November 1985. The maximum safe level for vinyl chloride is 2 ppb.

• Tetrachloroethylene, or PCE, (used in dry cleaning or as a degreaser) exceeded safe levels from August 1974 to January 1985 with the highest reading of 39 ppb in November 1983. The maximum safe level for PCE is 5 ppb.

• Benzene (a fuel component) exceeded safe levels from January 1979 to January 1985 with the highest level found 12 ppb in April 1984. The maximum safe level for benzene is 5 ppb.

• The "most likely date" TCE contamination first exceeded safe levels was August 1953, but could go as far back as 1948 — just seven years after Camp Lejeune opened.

A municipal water system would typically close off a water source that exceeds the maximum safe levels for any of these contaminants, scientists say.

The scientific agency has several health studies under way, including studies of childhood cancer, birth defects and male breast cancer.

Former residents of the base have pressed the agency to conduct a cancer incidence study to determine if base residents and workers suffered abnormally high cancer rates. But that will be difficult without legislation to force individual state cancer registries to participate, Ensminger said.

William R. Levesque can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3432.

 
Comments
Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

DENVER — The Lightning left for Las Vegas Saturday for the first of four nights in Sin City.But Tampa Bay’s first regret came before it boarded the charter flight; the Lighting lamented making Saturday’s 6-5 win over the Avalanche much more thrilling...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Bucs’ Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David out for Monday’s game vs. Falcons

TAMPA — As if containing All-Pro Julio Jones and the Falcons offense isn’t challenging enough, the Bucs will try to do so Monday night without perhaps their top defensive players, tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David.On Saturday, Bucs coa...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

WASHINGTON — Closing in on the first major legislative achievement of his term, President Donald Trump on Saturday defended the Republican tax cut as a good deal for the middle class while boldly suggesting it could lead to explosive economic growth....
Updated: 5 hours ago
Aquarium reopens to divers

Aquarium reopens to divers

Florida Keys News BureauVisitors to Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters dive with among indigenous Keys fish Friday in Marathon. The attraction reopened Friday after closing just before Hurricane Irma hit the Florida Keys on Sept. 10. Although tourism f...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Florida moves to control booming, invasive iguanas

Florida moves to control booming, invasive iguanas

MIAMI — With burrowing iguanas showing up in people’s toilets and damaging expensive sewer lines, Florida wildlife managers are stepping up efforts to control the state’s booming population of the wild, invasive reptiles. The Florida Fish and Wildlif...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Fan helps fund Miami Stadium’s historic marker

MIAMI — For thousands of kids who grew up in Miami, going to the old Miami Stadium in the Allapattah neighborhood was a part of coming of age. Opened on Aug. 31, 1949, with a game between the Miami Sun Sox and Havana Cubans, two Class B Florida Inter...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Florida man sues for $2.8 million fishing tournament prize money

Florida man sues for $2.8 million fishing tournament prize money

OCEAN CITY, Md. — Phil Heasley of Naples caught the fish of his life, but the $2.8 million in tournament prize money got away. Heasley reeled in a 6-foot white marlin last year off Maryland’s coast. But in a sign of how concerned some big money tour...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Romano: Some bullies survive beyond the schoolyard

Romano: Some bullies survive beyond the schoolyard

Sometime soon, members of the Florida House will be asked to consider a solution for bullying in public schools. It’s a dubious idea based on the premise that students should flee their tormenters, and use voucher funds to attend a private school of ...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Two die in head-on crash on Gunn Highway in Odessa

ODESSA — Hillsborough County deputies are investigating a head-on crash on Gunn Highway that killed two and sent a child to the hospital Saturday afternoon.About 12: 45 p.m., Terry Lee Bronschidle, 70, of Tampa was driving his Chevy Traverse south on...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Q&A with Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx about the Lightning’s next generation

Q&A with Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx about the Lightning’s next generation

DENVER — There might be one team in hockey hotter than the Lightning.It is Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate, Syracuse.The Crunch has won 10 straight after Friday’s victory over Providence. Why is this important? While the AHL is a developmental league, the ...
Updated: 7 hours ago