“That’s knock-your-socks-off level – even back then,” said Kaltofen, who worked on the infamous Love Canal case in upstate New York, where drums of buried chemical waste leaked toxins into a local water system.
“You could have smelled it.”
Biochemist Michael Hargett agrees that CCE, while imperfect, would have been enough to prompt more specific testing in what is now recognized as the worst documented case of drinking-water contamination in the nation’s history.
“I consider it disingenuous of the Corps to say, ‘Well, it wouldn’t have meant anything,”’ said Hargett, coowner of the private lab that tried to sound the alarm about the contamination in 1982. “The levels of chlorinated solvent that we discovered … they would have gotten something that said, ‘Whoops. I’ve got a problem.’ They didn’t do that.”
Trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), benzene and other toxic chemicals leeched into ground water from a poorly maintained fuel depot and indiscriminate dumping on the base, as well as from an off-base dry cleaner.
Nearly three decades after the first drinking-water wells were closed, victims are still awaiting a final federal health assessment – the original 1997 report having been withdrawn because faulty or incomplete data. Results of a long-delayed study on birth defects and childhood cancers were only submitted for publication in late April.
Many former Lejeune Marines and family members who lived there believe the Corps still has not come clean about the situation, and the question of whether these tests were conducted is emblematic of the depth of that mistrust.
Marine Corps officials have repeatedly said that federal environmental regulations for these cancer-causing chemicals were not finalized under the Safe Drinking Water Act until 1989 – about four years after the contaminated wells had been identified and taken out of service. But victims who have scoured decades-old documents say the military’s own health standards should have raised red flags long before.<< previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 next >>