Captain Kendra N. Motz
Division of Public Affairs
When and how did the Marine Corps first become aware of the water contamination?
In the early 1980s, Camp Lejeune began to test drinking water for trihalomethanes (THMs) because of new regulations that had been announced by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for those chemicals in November of 1979. Monitoring was required by November 1982 and compliance by November 1983. THMs are chemicals that are created when water is treated with chlorine. While these initial tests for THMs were being conducted, other chemicals, unidentified at the time, were sometimes interfering with the results.
Through special testing of the drinking water system in 1982, the chemicals causing the interference with THM testing were identified as trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE). The test results varied between drinking water samples collected at different times. Base officials were unable to immediately identify the source of the chemicals.
Beginning in 1984, as part of the Navy Assessment and Control of Installation Pollutants (NACIP) program established to identify and clean up contamination from past waste management activities at Navy and Marine Corps facilities, some drinking water wells were tested near potential former disposal sites. Benzene, a volatile organic compound (VOC), was found in one of the wells serving the Hadnot Point water system. When Base officials were notified of the result, the well was taken out of service on the same day it was found to be affected, and a more comprehensive well testing effort began. When this testing identified VOCs (e.g., TCE, PCE, benzene, vinyl chloride) in specific drinking water wells, those affected wells were removed from service. A total of ten drinking water wells were removed from service in 1984/1985 based on the presence of these chemicals
The sources of the VOC contamination were later found to be on-Base sources such as leaking storage tanks and industrial activities, and one off-Base source, a dry cleaner that affected specific drinking water wells. The normal rotation of the wells and geological factors likely caused the variation of chemical levels in the drinking water.
There were no drinking water regulations established for TCE, benzene and vinyl chloride until 1987. In 1987, federal regulations were published in the Federal Register and standards became effective and enforceable in 1989; Federal regulations for PCE were published in the Federal Register in 1991 and standards became effective and enforceable in 1992.
The Corps has been criticized for "taking too long" to shut down the first of the contaminated wells. How do you respond to that?
See A1. The test results varied between drinking water samples collected at different times. Base officials were unable to immediately identify the source of the chemicals.When testing identified volatile organic compounds in specific drinking water wells, those affected wells were promptly removed from service. A total of ten drinking water wells were removed from service in 1984/1985 based on the presence of these chemicals. The Marine Corps' action in removing these wells from service at the time was voluntary. Federal regulations for TCE, benzene, and vinyl chloride were published in the Federal Register in 1987 and standards became effective and enforceable in 1989; Federal regulations for PCE were published in the Federal Register in 1991 and standards became effective and enforceable in 1992.
When did the Marine Corps first begin its outreach effort to warn residents of a potential problem with the water? Please describe the specifics of each outreach (how it was done, and to whom it was targeted)
Our outreach efforts began in 1984 following the discovery of the VOCs (e.g., TCE, PCE, benzene, vinyl chloride) in the drinking water wells. The Base newspaper ran an article in December 1984. In addition to public notification, the State of North Carolina, who has Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) regulatory authority over the base, was notified in December 1984. In April 1985, a notice was sent to local military housing residents (Tarawa Terrace) concerning the detection of chemicals in drinking water wells and a water shortage. In May 1985, the Marine Corps held a press event concerning the drinking water which resulted in multiple articles in local and regional newspapers.
In 2000-2001 and again in 2011, the Marine Corps helped recruit participants for health studies being conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) through an extensive notification effort through the media, military messages and a video featuring the Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Today, we continue to engage in community outreach and world-wide notification activities through press releases, public notices in newspapers and magazines, website announcements, and direct mailings. We have established a drinking water notification database that now includes approximately 185,000 individuals. For notifications and updated information, individuals can register at www.marines.mil/clwater.
Has the Marine Corps made contact with everyone potentially affected by the contamination? If not, why not?
Our goal is to directly contact as many former residents as possible. Unfortunately, comprehensive contact information for all those who lived or worked on Camp Lejeune before 1987 does not exist. Therefore, we continue to engage in community outreach and world-wide notification activities through press releases, public notices in newspapers and magazines, website announcements, and direct mailings. We have established a drinking water notification database that now includes approximately 185,000 individuals. For notifications and updated information, individuals can register at www.marines.mil/clwater.
When did ATSDR first begin investigating the contamination at Camp Lejeune?
ATSDR first began studying the potential health effects of past drinking water contamination at Camp Lejeune in 1991. You can contact ATSDR at 800-232-4636 for more information about its studies.
Does the Marine Corps believe there is proof that contaminated water at Camp Lejeune has caused illness?
To date, reliable scientific evidence is lacking to establish whether or not the past contaminated water at Camp Lejeune caused illness. The Marine Corps continues its work with scientific organizations in an effort to provide comprehensive science-based answers to the health questions that have been raised.
Does the Marine Corps acknowledge a link between male breast cancer and contaminated water at Camp Lejeune? Why/Why not?
At this time, we do not know if past exposure to these chemicals in Camp Lejeune's drinking water caused adverse health effects in individuals. ATSDR is currently conducting a study of male breast cancer and estimates that the study will be complete in 2014.
Has the Marine Corps ever officially apologized to those who believe they were made sick by the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune? Why/Why not?
We recognize that some of our Marines, Sailors and their families have experienced health issues they believe are associated with water they drank or used in the past at Camp Lejeune. Our hearts go out to those individuals no matter what the cause. At this time, we do not know if past exposure to the VOCs (e.g., TCE, PCE, benzene, vinyl chloride) in Camp Lejeune's drinking water caused adverse health effects in individuals.
The Marine Corps has stated that there were no standards in place for the chemicals in question until the EPA set them forth as part of the Safe Drinking Water Act. But critics point out that the Navy had its own set of standards, dated from as early as 1963 (NAVMED P-5010-5 and BUMEDINST 6240.3B). Another document (BUMEDINST 6240.3C-September 1972) created a standard of 200PPB for total organics in the finished drinking water. That 200PPB standard remained in effect until BUMEDINST 6240.3C was issued and the standard lowered to 150PPB, and *that* standard remained in effect until 1988. Your critics allege that these potable water standards - designed by the Department of the Navy - were not followed, and as a result, the water contamination at Camp Lejeune went unchecked and people got sick. What is your response?
Regulatory limits for chlorinated hydrocarbon solvents, such as TCE, PCE and benzene, were not promulgated until the late 1980s. Consequently, routine testing for chlorinated hydrocarbon solvents did not begin until the late 1980s.
The test method to which you appear to be referring, the Carbon Chloroform Extract (CCE) for organic chemicals in water (i.e., 200 ug/L limit), would not have been effective in detecting the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that were identified in the drinking water wells in late 1984 and early 1985.
The CCE method includes a carbon drying step and a distillation and evaporation step where chloroform is completely evaporated. The CCE method targeted organic chemicals in water that do not readily evaporate (e.g., pesticides). The VOCs in question, trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), and benzene, by their chemical nature, readily evaporate during this process. Analytical testing for VOCs such as TCE, PCE and benzene require different methodologies which take into account the VOCs' volatile properties.
This methodology, which appears in BUMED 6240.3B, BUMED 6240.3C, and NAVMED P-5010-5, was originally published in the United States Public Health Service Drinking Water Standards of 1962 and was not exclusively used by the Navy. The 1972 updated BUMEDINST 6240.3C included chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, but not chlorinated hydrocarbon solvents. The Navy instructions did not address chlorinated hydrocarbon solvents such as TCE, PCE and benzene until the EPA began to regulate them in the late 1980s.
United States Public Health Service Drinking Water Standards of 1962:
Is Camp Lejeune still considered a Superfund Site?
Yes, Camp Lejeune was placed on the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) National Priorities List (NPL) on October 4, 1989 and remains one of the 1312 finalized sites on the NPL. Facilities remain on the NPL until response actions are complete and cleanup goals have been achieved, and the EPA decides to remove them from the list.
At Camp Lejeune, the Installation Restoration team consisting of representatives of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Region IV; the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources; and the Department of the Navy, assess the risk to human health and the environment and determine the best approach to address that risk. During the initial site study and cleanup, the determination is made whether current human exposures to contaminants are under control and action is taken to control any possible human exposures until cleanup is completed. Once complete, cleanup provides long-term human health and environmental protection at the site. The results of the EPA assessment of Camp Lejeune can be found at: http://cfpub.epa.gov/supercpad/cursites/csitinfo.cfm?id=0403185, where the
EPA states that "Current human exposures at this site are under control."
Since 1991, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a Federal public health agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, has been conducting studies at Camp Lejeune to attempt to determine if exposure to chemicals there may have caused adverse health effects. Additional information about these research initiatives can be found at: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/sites/lejeune.
Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune has undertaken significant cleanup actions. For a brief narrative of the Camp Lejeune cleanup progress, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/region4/superfund/sites/fedfacs/camplejnc.html.
For more information on the EPA's NPL, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/.
For a breakdown of EPA's NPL sites, please see:
If so, how can people live there?
As discussed in A1, based on cleanup actions and efforts to limit human exposures, EPA has determined that "Current human exposures at this site are under control." In addition, the drinking water at Camp Lejeune is tested more often than is required to ensure it meets all government drinking water standards. The Marine Corps works closely with the EPA, Region IV and the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources to ensure the health and safety of our service members, their families, and our civilians workers while cleanup is ongoing.
How much of the fuel lost from the leaking tanks has been recovered?
Camp Lejeune environmental officials estimate that 430,231 gallons of fuel have been removed through remediation efforts.
Do the remaining contaminants pose any risk to the families, civilians and service members currently on the base?
A4. The health and welfare of our service members, their families and our civilian employees is very important to us. As stated in A1, we have an active Installation Restoration program designed to ensure that potential contaminated sites at Camp Lejeune are thoroughly investigated and cleaned up to protect public health and the environment. The Marine Corps works closely with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Region IV and the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources to ensure the health and safety of our service members, their families, and our civilians workers while cleanup is ongoing. In addition, the drinking water at Camp Lejeune is tested more often than is required to ensure it meets all government drinking water standards and, as stated previously, the EPA has determined that "Current human exposures at this site are under control."