By: Ainsley Northrop
On Aug. 10, the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (PACT) was signed into law as an attempt by the U.S Government to take accountability for its wrongdoings. The countless military workers who were exposed to toxins at Camp Lejeune without their knowledge between 1953 and 1987, as well as their families, may qualify for financial compensation. This act hopes to provide care for the both affected veterans and their families, by allowing them to file lawsuits against the Federal Government, as well as to receive funds from the government.
Built in 1941, the North Carolina military base knowingly provided its residents with contaminated water from the 1950s to the 1980s. Not only did this contamination cause fatal disorders and diseases in veterans, but it has led to a decrease in military trust.
According to the St. Lawrence County Government’s 2009 report on Camp Lejeune, “a regulation on the books at Camp Lejeune as early as 1974 shows the Corps knew the danger organic solvents posed.” Despite the military knowing the water safety risks, they decided against informing the Marines at the base. By sweeping this under the rug, Camp Lejeune was able to continue going about its training, free of intervention for over 30 years.
Grainger Laboratories began to test the water in 1982. Their chemists found shockingly high levels of chemicals and cleaning solvents in the wells which provided everyday water to Marines and their families at the base. According to the St. Lawrence report, the co-owner of Grainger, Mike Hargett, referred to the military response to the chemist’s concern after finding the chemical data, saying: “They would not recognize the hazard. They did not react.”
The unknowing Marines and families staying at Lejeune continued to drink, cook, bathe and brush their teeth with the water, getting daily exposure to toxins such as TCE, PCE,VC and benzene, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. By the time the public found out about the risks in the 1980s, thousands of Marines were already significantly exposed to toxins.
Reportedly, these chemicals came from various activities near the base, including the use of pesticides, radioactive experiments, and a local dry-cleaning company’s waste.
Various forms of cancer and other chronic diseases are now recognized as resulting from this contamination. The contamination that the military allowed to occur at Camp Lejeune significantly affected and continues to affect countless Marine families.
(Sources: ATSDR, St. Lawrence County Gov, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Marine Corps, Chuck Grassley Senate Q&A)
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Great article. Camp Lejeune has also been found to be heavily contaminated with PFAS. PFAS would be an excellent topic for El Gato News to cover. PFAS, even in the tiniest amounts, has been identified as a serious hazard and is being found in drinking water across the country yet remains unregulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. PFAS and microplastics have been found to shed from artificial turf like that used on LGHS fields, both contaminating waterways. When the current fields wear out (they are typically only warrantied for ~8 years), I hope the school will be looking at transitioning to eco-friendly drought-tolerant natural grass fields economically managed with evidence-based modern best-management practices.