Feds Rescind Camp Lejeune Toxic Water ReportApr 30, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
After more than a decade, a report that minimized the cancer threat of toxic water at Camp Lejeune has been discredited by the federal government. According to the Associated Press, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) is withdrawing its report on Camp Lejeune's water because of omissions and scientific inaccuracy.
Lawsuits seeking $33 billion in damages have been filed by veterans who say the water at Camp Lejeune made them sick, the Associated Press said. These veterans and their advocates had long disputed the ATSDR's conclusion that chemicals in Camp Lejeune's water posed no health risks to adults.
According to a report on WaterTechOnline, chlorinated hydrocarbons as well as the chemicals tetrachloroethylene (PCE), a dry-cleaning solvent, and trichlrorehylene (TCE), a degreaser, were detected in the water which served housing, schools, other buildings and swimming pools at Camp Lejeune. The 1997 ATSDR report found that the contamination began in the 1950s and continued until wells were shut down in 1987. Health officials now are saying that as many as 1 million people may have been exposed to water toxins.
The discredited report significantly downplayed the risk of cancer faced by people living on the base, the Associated Press said. A table included in the document said adults faced no increased cancer risk from the water, while another portion of the report said the risk was "unlikely". In regards to children, the report states the cancer risk as being "unknown".
According to the Associated Press, ATSDR is pulling the report because:
• it omitted that high levels of the cancer-causing chemical benzene were found in a base well. Also, researchers never tried to verify whether benzene had reached the drinking water;
• contaminating solvents that officials focused on have been characterized by new science as even more likely to cause cancer;
• the study underestimated the extent of the contamination on the base housing areas due to inadequate information from the Marines.
According to the Associated Press, ATSDR has pulled the report from its website. The agency will redo its analysis with the new science that is now available.
Health officials are also continuing a separate study into whether fetuses might have been harmed by the water, the Associated Press said.