History of Water Treatment and Response to Contaminants Found at Camp Lejeune
Camp Lejuene Marine Corps officials have defended their lack of action in several ways since the 1980s.
- They’ve claimed since the EPA had no regulations regarding TCE and PCE during the mid-1980s, they had no responsibility to test for those chemicals.
- The Marines cite they satisfied EPA standards for the chlorine byproduct THM.
During the 1970s wells contaminated with solvents were closed down at Willow Grove Naval Airstation and Warminster Naval Air Warfare Center.
The first recorded methods for improving the taste and odor of drinking water included filtration using charcoal, exposure to sunlight, boiling, and straining.
Egyptians began using alum to cause particles to settle in order to make water clear.
Filtration became the established method to remove particles from water, but the degree of clarity was unmeasurable.
The first Industrial Revolution occurred, mainly in Britain.
Slow sand filtration was used more regularly in Europe.
The second Industrial Revolution intensified water pollution as factories released pollutants directly into rivers and streams.
Drinking water contaminants, including microscopic organisms, were beginning to be understood.
Epidemiologist, Dr. John Snow proved cholera was a waterborne disease, connecting a London outbreak to a public well contaminated by sewage.
Louis Pasteur demonstrated the disease “germ theory” explaining how microbes could be transmitted through water.
Late 1800s - Early 1900’s
Water treatment processes focused more on microbes rather than toxic chemicals.
The use of slow sand filtration was used to eliminate the turbidity.
Disinfectants were being used to reduce the number of waterborne diseases including dysentery, typhoid and cholera.
Chlorine became a primary disinfectant for drinking water.
U.S. Public Health Service set standards for the bacteriological quality of drinking water applying to water systems supplying drinking water to carriers such as ships and trains. The standards only applied to contaminants that spread contagious diseases. No federal laws existed regarding the quality of drinking water. Revisions to these standards occurred in 1925, 1946 & 1962
Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune is established.
Hadnot Point Fuel Farm was built consisting of 14 fuel tanks buried in the ground and one 600,000 gallon above-ground tank. It was located within the Hadnot Point Industrial area just 1,200 feet from potable water well HP-602 which was also constructed in 1941.
Hadnot Point Water Treatment plant began providing water to service members and residents.
Tarawa Terrace subdivision and well field construction began.
ABC One-Hour Dry Cleaners began operating next to Camp Lejeune.
Hydrogeologist H.E. Legrand found the wells at Hadnot Point, Tarawa Terrace and Montford Point were built on thin sand and recommended frequent inspection and repair.
Camp Lejeune opened its first toxic waste dump.
April 5, 1962
Public Health Service Drinking Water Standards, 1962 enacted revising water quality standards to regulate 28 substances, becoming the most comprehensive federal drinking water standards until the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974.
Man-made chemicals from factories, underground storage and disposal leaks along with street and farm runoff began to negatively impact the environment and public health. Water treatment methods were not yet used or were ineffective at removing chemical contaminants.
The Public Health Service (PHS) survey on drinking water supplies showed only 60% of surveyed systems’ water met all the standards set by PHS.
The EPA called Lejeune a “major polluter” in the 1970s. The Corps says it disposed of wastes in those early years in ways consistent with common practices of the time. Records show the Marines dumped oil and industrial wastewater in storm drains. Potentially radioactive materials were buried, including carcasses of dogs used in testing. The camp even located a daycare in a former malaria control shop where pesticides were mixed and stored.
Wells contaminated with solvents closed down at the Willow Grove Naval Air Station.
Navy regulations in force at Lejeune barred harmful substances in the water. Indeed, a regulation on the books dating to 1974 outlined how to safely isolate hazardous wastes from the water supply. The Corps never released that regulation or other Navy rules on drinking water to investigators who examined the camp. But regulations by the Department of Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, in force at the base, barred harmful substances in water.
The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) of 1974 was signed into law by President Gerald Ford. Only 33% of smaller water treatment systems, those servicing less than 100 people were providing treatment.
Base orders 5100.13B sets out safe disposal procedure of hazardous waste disposal which was not followed.
The Love Canal tragedy created an awareness of potential water contamination issues.
First documented fuel leak at Camp Lejeune.
According to information from Michael Partain’s testimony in Congress in 2010 the fuel leak involved 20,000 - 30,000 gallons of oil that leaked in the ground at Hadnot Point Fuel Farm from an underground valve. Michael was exposed to PCE, TCE, DCE, Benzene & Vinyl Chloride while in utero and as a child living at Camp Lejeune. He developed male breast cancer. Excerpts from Micheal’s testimony detail failures including:
- The LantDiv engineer concluded that because of age, failure to clean the tanks and lack of maintenance, there had been a general condition of corrosion and deterioration of the tanks and connecting pipelines.
- Many of the interconnecting valves and flanges could not be inspected because they were buried and/or could not be located.
- The engineer recommended replacing the connecting piping, the inspection of all of the tanks for leaks and repair existing leaks.
There were no attempts to remediate or recover the lost fuel until 1989. It took the Marine Corps five years to sample the nearest potable water from well HP-602 to ensure the well was free of fuel contamination.
- After all, BUMED 6240.3B and version C carried an obligation for the Marine Corps to make sure potable water was obtained from the most desirable source feasible and efforts be made to prevent or control pollution of the source.
- Instead, the Marine Corps relies on their assertion that VOCs, including SVOC benzene, were not regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act until the late 1980’s and early 1990’s to avoid addressing the issue.
June 14, 1979
The Carter Administration reveals plans for a $1.63 billion Superfund for hazardous waste clean-ups across the country.
July 12, 1979
The EPA announces the creation of a special task force to aid in the identification and clean-up of toxic waste sites.
Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) —better known as Superfund, provides federal funding to clean up hazardous waste sites.
Per the EPA and the Safe Drinking Water Act, testing was done to look for trihalomethanes or THMs, but other contaminants were found that created an interference in detecting the THMs.
October 31, 1980
The lab chief at U.S. Army Environmental Hygiene Agency out of Ft. McPhersoh, Georgia, William C. Neal Jr. tested the water at Hadnot Point and found the water “is highly contaminated with low molecular weight halogenated hydrocarbons.” No action was taken.
Composite Samples released to LantDiv - composite samples showed contamination of the drinking water from Tetrachloroethylene (Perchloroethylene) (PCE), Trichloroethylene (TCE), dichloroethylene (DCE), and vinyl chloride just under the detection limits set for the laboratory.
The reporting hierarchy allowed marines to claim they weren’t aware of the contamination because the Army sent the water test results to LantDiv in Norfolk, VA whodid not forward the info on to Camp Lejeune.
Efforts to clean and repair the leaking tanks at Hadnot Point Fuel Farm were recommended in The Condition Survey. Repair was to be completed under Military Construction Data project number LE201M allocating $537,200.
Memo said the Navy was aware that North Carolina had assumed responsibility for the Safe Drinking Water Act as regulated under the act.
Marines hired Grainger Laboratories a state-certified environmental lab to create a study of 1982 standards looking for THMs in the water.
Naval Assessment and Control of Installation Pollutants (NACIP) reports that 22 of 76 CL water sites warrant monitoring for suspected contamination.
Hearing documents from 2010 described there was knowledge of the contaminants with no action taken. According to a 1982 document referenced in the Camp LeJeune Contamination and Compensation document, the Base Supervisory Chemist, Elizabeth Betz noted “that she did not know how LantDiv determined the amount of water to take from each system to comprise the volume used in making the composite sample. Betz also recognized the percentage of total volume did not accurately reflect the corresponding usage for each system sampled or the daily flow of each system.”
Ms. Betz ominously noted that the 1980 analysis showed no problems for the priority pollutants listed for the eight water treatment systems aboard Camp Lejeune as a whole, but the same may not necessarily be true for each individual water treatment system aboard the base. No further investigation was initiated.
May 6, 1982
Grainger Laboratory reports TCE and PCE in high concentration in samples from Hadnot Point and Tarawa Terrace. The base is not testing for TCE and PCE. The Navy confirms the report.
It was determined by officials with the Navy and the Marine Corps that the plan from 1981 to piece meal rehabilitation of the Hadnot Point Fuel Farm would not be cost-effective.
Finally, two years after discovering the contaminants, along with tests from another contractor indicating a benzene level of 380 ppb in well #602 at Hadnot Point, steps were initiated to close the contaminated wells.
A recommendation to replace the Hadnot Point Fuel Farm with a new facility was made.
Amendments were made to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) including
- Regulation of more than 80 contaminants in drinking water within three years, and, after that, at least 25 more by 1991.
- Impose new monitoring requirements on public water systems for contaminants not yet regulated.
- Requires states to develop programs for protecting areas around wells supplying public drinking water systems.
- Requires EPA to issue new rules for monitoring wells injecting wastes below drinking water sources, and report to Congress on other types of injection wells.
The EPA designates Camp Lejeune & ABC One-Hour Dry Cleaners as Superfund Sites.
The Hadnot Point Fuel Farm was replaced.
The Superfund Record of Decision USMC Camp Lejeune Military Reservation (Operable Unit 3) NC Third Remedial Action report documented the key contaminants were VOCs (benzene, PCE, TCE), other organics (PCBs, pesticides), metals (arsenic, chromium, lead).
69% of smaller systems, those servicing less than 100 people were providing treatment.
EPA survey found 64% of community ground and surface water systems were disinfected with chlorine while the rest relied on another type of disinfectant like chloramine or ozone.
Amendments were made to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).
The SDWA 1996 amendments greatly enhanced the existing law by recognizing source water protection, operator training, funding for water system improvements, and public information as important components of safe drinking water.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) conducted health surveys and found patterns that identified health hazards from exposure to contaminated water from Tarawa Terrace, Hadnot Point and Holcomb Boulevard Water Systems.
Filtration and chlorination remained the most effective treatment techniques for protecting U.S. water supplies from dangerous microbes.
The United States Marine Corps convened a fact-finding panel.
Chemist at Camp Lejeune received test results from Navy Lantdiv provided no explanation of what to do re: solvents & she had no training on what to do, concerned with the THM’s and no regulations based on the safe water drinking act.
LantDiv couldn’t recall when they received the test results that showed solvents in the water 2004. Not responsible for enforcing what they do with the info, each base decided on its own whether to follow our advice on their own.
2004 - 2005
The ATSDR analyzed groundwater resources and put together a Water-Modeling report in Support of the Current Study of Childhood Birth Defects and Cancer at U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
In 2009, ATSDR removed the 1997 Camp Lejeune Public Health Assessment having found “that communities serviced by the Holcomb Boulevard distribution system were exposed to contaminated water for a longer period than we knew in 1997. Also, at the Camp Lejeune site, benzene was present in one drinking-water supply well that was not listed in the 1997 PHA. The PHA should have stated there were not enough data to rule out earlier exposures to benzene. We are currently studying that well to determine if it was used as a drinking water source while it was contaminated.”
Reports were withdrawn by the ATSDR that had previously stated the USMC admitted to losing up to 50,000 gallons of fuel at Hadnot Point over the nearly 50 years in operation. The number was changed to 1.1 million gallons of water that were released into the water at Hadnot Point.
The Janey Ensminger Act was introduced. The act was named for the daughter of a marine stationed at Camp Lejeune, Jerry Ensminger. Janey died of Leukemia at the age of 9.
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released a list of presumptive conditions related to water contamination at Camp Lejeune. The conditions on the list include cancer, kidney disease, and liver disease. Veterans may become eligible for disability benefits through the VA.
August 6, 2012
H.R.1627 Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 granting some benefits to veterans, family members, and others who were exposed if they meet certain standards was passed by Congress and signed into law
The North Carolina General Assembly clarifies that its statute of repose does not bar an action caused by a water contaminant. 11th Circuit Court ruled against Camp Lejeune claimants and dismissed all of their cases.
January 13, 2017
The VA finalizes the Diseases Associated with Exposure to Contaminants in the Water Supply at Camp Lejeune rule considering eight diseases as presumptive for connection to their military service. This presumptive service connection provides VA disability benefits to veterans who have one of eight diseases and served for no less than 30 days (consecutive or nonconsecutive) on permanent or temporary duty at Camp Lejeune between 1 August 1953 and 31 December 1987 as part of 2012 Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act.
The Navy denies more than 4,400 civil claims for tort benefits, claiming immunity under the Federal Tort Claims Act FTCA.
The Janey Ensminger Act of 2019 is introduced to “amend the Public Health Service Act with respect to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s review and publication of illness and conditions relating to veterans stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and their family members, and for other purposes.”
May 24, 2022
U.S. Senate’s Veterans Affairs committee released the text of the Honoring our PACT Act of 2022, closely following the House Bill.
June 7, 2022
The Senate votes cloture, no more debate, and votes on the measure with amendments.
June 16, 2022
Senate voted again and approved the bill 84-14 to pass the HR 3967 Honoring Our PACT Act, now awaiting President Biden’s signature.
June 24, 2022
The final passage of the PACT Act is on hold as lawmakers work out a blue-slip objection by the House, which has requested the Senate remove a minor provision.
August 2, 2022
S.3373 - The Honoring our PACT Act of 2022 passed the House and is in the Resolving Differences phase before going to the desk of the President to be signed into law.
August 10, 2022
S.3373 - The Honoring our PACT Act of 2022 was signed into law by President Joe Biden.
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Photo Credit: Water purification system, via Flickr user Massdep