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Group Takes Its Fight Over Base Toxins Back to D.C.

Nov 13, 2002 | Jacksonville Daily News For the second time in as many months, Karen Strand is taking the trip to Washington, D.C., to make a case.

And it’s not just her case, but one for hundreds of former residents of base housing areas aboard Camp Lejeune from the 1960s to the mid-1980s.

Strand is one of the sisters who created a Web site for people who lived in homes at Tarawa Terrace or Hadnot Point prior to 1985 who might have gotten sick from toxins found in drinking water there

Strand and members of her group, THE STAND, are lobbying Congress and federal agencies to help. They are seeking a standstill agreement that would halt the federal statute of limitations on a potential class-action lawsuit.

They are also asking the federal government to expand the study on the health effects of the contaminated water and for medical assistance for people who lived or worked in Tarawa Terrace or Hadnot Point before 1985 and might have gotten sick from toxins that seeped into groundwater from a nearby dry cleaner.

The well has been capped for nearly two decades and poses no threat to current or recent residents. The area is an EPA Superfund site.

“The most important thing is to get the standstill agreement, which would put a halt on the statute of limitations,” said Terry Dyer, Strand’s sister.

Strand said the group’s last trip to Washington was productive.

“I though it was really good,” she said.

They met with members of congress, staffers and aides.

“They were very sympathetic,” said Dyer. “Most of it was they wanted to help and weren’t sure what they could do.”

Between the 1960s until 1985, toxic chemicals like trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and dichloroethylene (DCE) seeped into groundwater at Tarawa Terrace aboard Camp Lejeune from the old ABC Cleaners on Lejeune Boulevard, an on-base motor pool and other dump sites on base.

After discovering the contamination in 1980 and identifying the toxins as commercial solvents in 1982, the military capped contaminated wells that served Tarawa Terrace, Hadnot Point and areas along Holcomb Boulevard in 1985.

But many people who lived or worked in those areas before 1985 are experiencing a variety of ailments and symptoms they believe were caused by the toxins.

In 1998, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry began a study of babies who were carried in utero on Camp Lejeune between 1968 and 1985. An early report suggested such children had low birth weight, but a final report has yet to be completed.

For many who might have been affected, the study was the first time they heard about the potential health effects of the contamination.

“There’s a lot of them that are hurt and are angry,” said Strand. “They’re just getting left behind.”

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