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PostPosted: Thu Feb 18, 2010 11:56 am 
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this makes me angry on so many levels...

Camp LeJeune NC water tainted with Benzene from fuel farm leaks for 50+ years.

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KEVIN MAURER, Associated Press via Yahoo News wrote:
WILMINGTON, N.C. – An environmental contractor dramatically underreported the level of a cancer-causing chemical found in tap water at Camp Lejeune, then omitted it altogether as the Marine base prepared for a federal health review, an Associated Press review has found.
The Marine Corps had been warned nearly a decade earlier about the dangerously high levels of benzene, which was traced to massive leaks from fuel tanks at the base on the North Carolina coast, according to recently disclosed studies.

For years, Marines who served at Camp Lejeune have blamed their families' cancers and other ailments on tap water tainted by dry cleaning solvents, and many accuse the military of covering it up. The benzene was discovered as part of a broader, ongoing probe into that contamination.

When water was sampled in July 1984, scientists found benzene in a well near the base's Hadnot Point Fuel Farm at levels of 380 parts per billion, according to a water tests done by a contractor. A year later, in a report summarizing the 1984 sampling, the same contractor pointed out the benzene concentration "far exceeds" the safety limit set by federal regulators at 5 parts per billion.

The Marines were still studying the water contamination in 1991 when another contractor again warned the Navy of the health hazards posed by such levels of benzene.
By 1992, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease, an arm of the Department of Health and Human Services, showed up at the base to begin a health risk assessment. That's when a third contractor, the Michael Baker Corp., released a draft report on the feasibility of fixing the overall problem.
In it, the 1984 level on the well of 380 parts per billion had changed to 38 parts per billion. The company's final report on the well, issued in 1994, made no mention of the benzene.

Not only hasn't the benzene disappeared from the now-closed wells, it's gotten much worse over time. One sample from a series of tests conducted from June 2007 to August 2009 registered 3,490 parts per billion, according to a report from a fourth contractor.

Kyla Bennett, who spent 10 years as an enforcement officer for the Environmental Protection Agency before becoming an ecologist and environmental attorney, reviewed the different reports and said it was difficult to conclude innocent mistakes were made in the Baker Corp. documents.

"It is weird that it went from 380 to 38 and then it disappeared entirely," she said. "It does support the contention that they did do it deliberately."
News of Baker Corp.'s handling of the benzene levels has ex-Lejeune residents questioning anew the honesty of a military they accuse of endangering their lives.
"It is a shame that an institution founded on honor and integrity would resort to open deceit in order to protect their reputation at the cost of the health, safety and welfare of its service men, women and their families," said Mike Partain, a 42-year-old who lives in Tallahassee, Fla., but was born at Lejeune and diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007.

Capt. Brian Block, a Marine Corps spokesman, took exception to characterizing the conflicting information in the reports as anything but inadvertent.
"It was probably just a mistake on the part of the contractor, but I can't tell you for certain why that happened," he said.
David Higie, a spokesman for Baker Corp., declined to discuss the company's reports or why its employees might have revised the benzene levels. He referred questions to the military.

Block said Camp Lejeune held a news conference to alert residents of problems with the water system in 1985 and has spent millions of dollars in outreach and studies. "The Marine Corps has never tried to hide any of this information," he said.

The discrepancies in the reports were tucked inside thousands of documents the Marines released last year to the Agency for Toxic Substances as part of the Marines' long-running review of water supplied to Camp Lejeune's main family housing areas. That water was contaminated by fuel and cleaning solvents from the 1950s through the 1980s, and health officials believe as many as 1 million people may have been exposed to the toxins before the wells that supplied the tainted water were closed two decades ago.

The newly discovered records, first reported Sunday by McClatchy News Service, show that a water well contaminated by leaking fuel was left functioning for at least five months after a sampling discovered it was tainted with benzene in 1984.

Benzene, a carcinogen, is a natural part of crude oil and gasoline. Drinking water containing high levels of it can cause vomiting, dizziness, sleepiness, convulsions, and death and long-term exposure damages bone marrow, lowers red blood cells and can cause anemia and leukemia, according to the EPA.
Camp Lejeune environmental engineer Robert Alexander was quoted in 1985 as saying no one "had been directly exposed" to contaminants, including benzene. In December, Alexander told the AP he didn't recall anything about the well contaminated with the benzene or the ensuing studies that failed to account for its toxicity, but said that the methods at the time were still being perfected, and that he and the other base officials did the best they could.
The records indicate the military knew a lot of specifics.

For years the Marine Corps knew the fuel farm, built in 1941, was leaking 1,500 gallons a month and did nothing to stop it, according to a 1988 memo from a Camp Lejeune lawyer to the base's assistant facilities manager. "It's an indefensible waste of money and a continuing potential threat to human health and the environment," wrote Staff Judge Advocate A.P. Tokarz.

Minutes of a 1996 meeting with Moon Township, Pa.-based Baker Corp., the third contractor, indicate the fuel farm had lost 800,000 gallons of fuel, of which 500,000 gallons had been recovered. Benzene was "in the deeper portion of the aquifer" and the "fuel farm is definitely the source," the minutes quote a Michael Baker employee as saying.

The Coast Guard categorizes any coastal oil spill larger than 100,000 gallons as major.

Former Marines and Camp Lejeune residents continue to fight for a compensation program and to fund a mortality study that would determine if Marines and sailors who were exposed to these contaminants suffer from a higher death rate. The Senate passed legislation in September backed by Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Kay Hagan, D-N.C., preventing the military from dismissing claims related to water contamination pending completion of the several studies, including the mortality study.
"These people knowingly exposed us to these high levels of contaminants and now they don't want to know if their negligence caused harm to the people they say they care so much about?" said Jerry Ensminger, a retired master sergeant who lived at the base and lost his 9-year-old daughter to leukemia. "There is definitely something wrong with this picture."


Last edited by Midgen on Thu Feb 18, 2010 1:53 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 18, 2010 12:47 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 18, 2010 1:09 pm 
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What the hell?...

That someone is letting their decrepit fuel tanks leak into the ground water supply is not particularly surprising to me, unfortunately.

What does surprise me is that a major military base the size of Camp LeJeune -- dependent on its own ground water supply system -- doesn't have its own monitoring and testing wells. Roughly 40k marines + family is probably, what? 60-80k residents? That's a medium-sized city unto its own. I don't know of any ground-water municipality of that size that doesn't have the means of independently monitoring their own water supply. It's crazy that they're having to take someone else's word for it that their water supply isn't poisoned, especially when you consider that it's a military base.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 18, 2010 1:15 pm 
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Stathol wrote:
It's crazy that they're having to take someone else's word for it that their water supply isn't poisoned, especially when you consider that it's a military base.

It makes perfect sense to me they brought in an independent (and supposedly licensed and qualified) contractor to do a through study of their situation and provide long term monitoring... independent review, though considering the military is getting blamed for covering it up anyway, it probably doesn't matter if they did the testing themselves or hired someone outside the organization to do it.

But I would not want to be Baker Corps. professional liability insurance provider at this point.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 18, 2010 1:19 pm 
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EIGHT HUNDRED THOUSAND GALLONS !!!


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 18, 2010 1:24 pm 
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I read the rest the article and it appears that the base did have its own testing and monitoring, and the Baker Corp group was providing independent testing.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 18, 2010 1:42 pm 
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Midgen wrote:
EIGHT HUNDRED THOUSAND GALLONS !!!


Yea, this.

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It's likely the Baker group was brought in so that the cover up of contamination could be blamed on a private group if it was ever found out.

I don't know the government not only not caring about but seeking to cover up and deny responsibility for actually injuring citizens and members of the armed forces surprises any of you.

We tested LSD on our servicemen, we exposed them to radiation as test subjects, we exposed them to agent orange, give them sub standard healthcare, and many many other things - but this surprises people? Please.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 18, 2010 1:44 pm 
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Ladas wrote:
But I would not want to be Baker Corps. professional liability insurance provider at this point.


This. Oh lordy, this. Or the poor sap at MB that is unable to find his quality control documentation about now.


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Ladas wrote:
I read the rest the article and it appears that the base did have its own testing and monitoring, and the Baker Corp group was providing independent testing.

I could be mistaken, but having read through it more thoroughly now, I still don't see that anywhere.

The well mentioned with respect to the 1984 probe was implied to have been a supply well which has since been closed. Other than that, they mention a "series of tests conducted from June 2007 to August 2009". I may be wrong, but I'm getting the impression that they were just testing sporadically every decade or so, whenever the issue came back to the foreground, instead of regular, routine monitoring and testing.

Contracting it out is only strange inasmuch as it's entirely unnecessary. The military already has an entire branch of personnel that exists for exactly this sort of thing -- the Army Corps of Engineers. This is a Marine base, of course, but they either have their own engineering department or they rely on the USACE directly; I'm not sure which. Either way, they could do this "in-house" easily and inexpensively.

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Stathol wrote:
I could be mistaken, but having read through it more thoroughly now, I still don't see that anywhere.

I got it from this in the article (emphasis mine):

Quote:
Camp Lejeune environmental engineer Robert Alexander was quoted in 1985 as saying no one "had been directly exposed" to contaminants, including benzene. In December, Alexander told the AP he didn't recall anything about the well contaminated with the benzene or the ensuing studies that failed to account for its toxicity, but said that the methods at the time were still being perfected, and that he and the other base officials did the best they could.

It could be bad journalism, or poor grammar, but that clearly implies he attached to the base in a more permanent and/or official manner and not just an independent tester. It could still be that he was a civilian contractor, but that would still make an employee of the base.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 18, 2010 2:16 pm 
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The local civil engineers are required to test the water as a common practice. This happens at all military bases. I don't know how often, or specifically what they test for.

It's incomprehensible to me that this situation could have gone on for so long.

So many heads should roll over this.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 18, 2010 2:28 pm 
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Maybe so, Ladas. I found this report on Camp LeJeune from 2004 that goes into a lot more detail, but I don't really have time to read it all at the moment. Linking it here, since it looks potentially useful:

https://clnr.hqi.usmc.mil/clwater/panelreport.html

It sounds like they were doing some routine monitoring for certain contaminants, but that the system in general suffers (or suffered) from a lack of useable raw data.

Quote:
Theoretically, it would be possible to calculate the potential past exposure to contaminants that any individual consumer served by these systems have experienced. To do this, the following information is needed:
  • Hourly flow from each water supply well,
  • Contaminant concentrations under various pumping conditions, as projected based on historical data,
  • Raw and treated water system facilities and their conditions that existed at the time,
  • Operating procedures for the water treatment plants, including actual schedule for use of wells,
  • Use of available balancing storage -- both raw and treated, and
  • Daily (preferably hourly) water demand patterns for all uses on a given system.
Each piece of this information is necessary to determine exposure. If actual data are not available, as is generally the case at Camp Lejeune, it would be necessary to make a series of assumptions. Each assumption would reduce confidence in the results. The available data are presented in Attachment K, [...]


Unfortunately, Attachment K doesn't seem to be included in the on-line PDF, so I can't say exactly what kind of raw data they do actually possess.

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Elmarnieh wrote:
It's likely the Baker group was brought in so that the cover up of contamination could be blamed on a private group if it was ever found out.

I don't know the government not only not caring about but seeking to cover up and deny responsibility for actually injuring citizens and members of the armed forces surprises any of you.

We tested LSD on our servicemen, we exposed them to radiation as test subjects, we exposed them to agent orange, give them sub standard healthcare, and many many other things - but this surprises people? Please.


Where do you get that this is the government not caring about it's members of the armed forces?

What I got from the article was that a contactor working for the goverment lied.


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Aizle,

The military leaders in charge of that base had to have known over the years that there was a problem. The fact that they brought in an independent contractor indicates they suspected something. I doubt anyone will ever be able to prove for a fact that there was collusion between the base and the contractor to cover up the problem (unless someone admits it), but the idea that there could be a problem that serious for that long is incredulous to me.

Edit:
Not to mention the fact that they knew that their fuel tanks leaked EIGHT HUNDRED THOUSAND GALLONS of jet fuel.. 500,000 of which they claim to have cleaned up! Where do the think they other 300,000 gallons went?


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 19, 2010 11:43 am 
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Midgen wrote:
The local civil engineers are required to test the water as a common practice. This happens at all military bases. I don't know how often, or specifically what they test for.

It's incomprehensible to me that this situation could have gone on for so long.

So many heads should roll over this.


This. The Army is just ridiculous about monitoring chemical spills. I've seen soldiers digging up hundreds of pounds of dirt at NTC because of a motor oil spill. At one point our battalion commander at Fort Hood threatened to make an officer stay by the water trap in the motor pool all day during command maintenance to make sure no one was pouring unauthorized chemicals down the drain. I won't even get into the woodpeckers at Fort Bragg or the turtles at NTC.

I can see how the Marines would be more susceptible to this. The Marines have the highest tooth-to-tail ratio of any service; they have the most combat-oriented troops and the least support, and a lot of their support comes from the Navy. They simply don't have as robust an engineer component as the Army (one battalion per division, compared to one per brigade for Army heavy units) and lack the non-combat engineer units entirely except maybe in their reserves. They also depend totally ont he Navy for medical personnel.

I also note that the drop in benzene levels is from 380 to 38. That's quite possibly simply a dropped 0, but the disappearance entirely is not so easily explained away. Explaining it, however in terms of "the military" not caring about "its troops" is silly and drawing a deliniation between the supposed brass and the troops as if they were separate entities is an oversimplified distortion.

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Diamondeye wrote:
I won't even get into the woodpeckers at Fort Bragg or the turtles at NTC.

Good, because the official policy is still Dont Ask, Dont Tell.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 19, 2010 12:14 pm 
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Ladas wrote:
Diamondeye wrote:
I won't even get into the woodpeckers at Fort Bragg or the turtles at NTC.

Good, because the official policy is still Dont Ask, Dont Tell.


That only applies to homosexuality. Besitality is another animal entirely! (badum-ching!)

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What I don't get is that for this to have gone on for 40-years after multiple warnings about the specific cause of the contamination...there's just no way this can be written off as error or incompetency. I don't see any way to escape the conclusion that there was a concerted effort to sweep this all under the rug and pretend it wasn't happening. But surely that would necessarily involve the cooperation of some portion of LeJeune's command staff, wouldn't it? These people would have been drinking the benze-contaminated water themselves. You'd think self-preservation would kick in. It's bizarre.

Diamondeye wrote:
Explaining it, however in terms of "the military" not caring about "its troops" is silly and drawing a deliniation between the supposed brass and the troops as if they were separate entities is an oversimplified distortion.

To be fair, though, the military -- or parts of it, at least -- hasn't had a stellar record in this department. At the risk of getting into "tinfoil" territory, it's fairly well known that Area 51 is a ghost-town now. It's well known now that the base was involved in a lot of avionics testing throughout the Cold War. What's lesser known is that was also use extensively as a chemical waste dump site. By the early-to-mid 90s, it was becoming increasingly clear that the environmental damage had become so extensive that it posed an acute health risk to base personnel. In fact, the first official acknowledgement that the base even existed was brought about because of a class-action suit filed by the personnel involved in the dumping and burning operations there. Their accusation was that not only had the government been disposing of this stuff in entirely unsuitable and illegal fashion, but that they had been repeatedly lied to about the extent of the waste's toxicity and its health risk. Furthermore, they were denied legal avenue for redress because the base didn't officially exist and they didn't officially work there.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 19, 2010 5:29 pm 
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Stathol wrote:
What I don't get is that for this to have gone on for 40-years after multiple warnings about the specific cause of the contamination...there's just no way this can be written off as error or incompetency. I don't see any way to escape the conclusion that there was a concerted effort to sweep this all under the rug and pretend it wasn't happening. But surely that would necessarily involve the cooperation of some portion of LeJeune's command staff, wouldn't it? These people would have been drinking the benze-contaminated water themselves. You'd think self-preservation would kick in. It's bizarre.

Diamondeye wrote:
Explaining it, however in terms of "the military" not caring about "its troops" is silly and drawing a deliniation between the supposed brass and the troops as if they were separate entities is an oversimplified distortion.

To be fair, though, the military -- or parts of it, at least -- hasn't had a stellar record in this department. At the risk of getting into "tinfoil" territory, it's fairly well known that Area 51 is a ghost-town now. It's well known now that the base was involved in a lot of avionics testing throughout the Cold War. What's lesser known is that was also use extensively as a chemical waste dump site. By the early-to-mid 90s, it was becoming increasingly clear that the environmental damage had become so extensive that it posed an acute health risk to base personnel. In fact, the first official acknowledgement that the base even existed was brought about because of a class-action suit filed by the personnel involved in the dumping and burning operations there. Their accusation was that not only had the government been disposing of this stuff in entirely unsuitable and illegal fashion, but that they had been repeatedly lied to about the extent of the waste's toxicity and its health risk. Furthermore, they were denied legal avenue for redress because the base didn't officially exist and they didn't officially work there.


At certain points in history, yes, certain areas of the military have engaged in conduct that ranged from the ill-advised to the criminal.

However, trying to point to actions taken 40, 50, or 60+ years ago and say that the behaviors then are evidence of a pervasive culture now are obviously a major stretch at best. Not only that, but each service, and even different sub-branches of, bases and locations, and even individual commanders and other officers within each service will have varying attitudes about any given matter, and that includes such matters as environmental problems.

Not only that, but in, say, 1970, environamental awareness was just becoming the thing it is today. Given that local commanders and brass had to drink the same water as everyone else, it seems unlikely that there was real understanding of such hazards at that time, and probably not until the late 1980s at the earliest when the military started to shed the Viet-Nam era brass and had younger officers more aware of such things starting to take charge.

I should also point out that many complaints that seem ill-advised now didn't seem so at the time. For example, exposing soldiers to a nuclear blast was seen as a necessity at the time because it was believed that nuclear weapons would be the dominant weapon in any major future conflict. Obviously the health hazards of radiation were known, but it had to be demonstrated that soldiers could fight on the nuclear battlefield, and it had to be discovered what problems would exist.

Agent Orange is similar; it had a combat useage and while it might have long-term effects on soldiers exposed to it, being shot or blown up byt he Viet Cong would.. also have long term effects, lets say.

None of this is to say that ignoring problems like this is acceptable, but by the same token, painting it as just another example of some broad-based disregard for troops that "the military" has is really just blaming the problem on a barely-defined "them" in order to complain about it without really digging into the problem.

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Most military people a deal with issues in terms of 3-4 year tours and annual budget cycles. Once they move on it becomes someone else's problem.

This was a systemic failure. The type that the military is prone to. It's no excuse though.

/profundity
At some point someone should have made this a priority and taken care of it.


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Midgen wrote:
It's incomprehensible to me that this situation could have gone on for so long.


It's the government. /shrug Nothing the .mil does, good or bad, surprises me.

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