Saturday, February 27, 2010

Benzene In The Water Supply

An Associated Press review has found that an environmental contractor considerably 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.

According to recently disclosed studies, the Marine Corps had been warned nearly a decade earlier about the treacherously high levels of benzene, which was traced to massive leaks from fuel tanks at the base on the North Carolina coast.

There has been an unusually high amount of cancer cases at the camp. A test done in 1984 first picked up the high levels of the toxic substance in its original report. But 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.

Apparently the 1984 level was on the well of 380 parts per billion and it had changed to 38 parts per billion. The company's final report on the well, issued in 1994, made no mention of the benzene. And the reports of the benzene levels just got worse overtime.

According to the EPA 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.

It’s just sad to see that those trying to serve and protect our country are being treated this way with absolutely no respect for their health and safety.

But today 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.

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