The News and Observer reported today, that the U.S. Department of the Navy will pay $1.53 million to conduct a mortality study to prove that toxic waters did play a role in the deaths of Marines and their families. Here are the basics.
By some estimates, as many as 1 million people were exposed to well water that contained toxic chemicals at the base. The chemicals were dumped into storm drains, leaked from fuel tanks or buried in pits across the base. They seeped through the groundwater and into wells that fed the base areas of Hadnot Point and Tarawa Terrace.
The main suspected toxic that leached into water sources is benzene. The organic compound is classified as a carcinogen by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services and is most commonly linked to causing acute non-lymphocytic leukemia. The compound was originally used as an additive in gasoline to prevent knocking, but today is still used to make adhesives and a number of plastics and polymers. If benzene sounds familiar it's because in 1978 it was the most prevalent chemical found in water samples in Love Canal, New York. In response to that crisis the U.S. Gov't relocated over 800 families.
Some believe over 800,000 gallons of gasoline have been spilled at the site since its inception. Although the water wells were closed in 1984, over 155,000 former Marines and family members are on a list to be notified of the studies results. Of course for many this study comes decades too late. In 1985 former Marine Jerry Ensminger lived with his wife and daughter in a large housing complex, that winter they recieved a letter saying that "small trace amounts" of organic chemicals were found in two wells and they were in turn being shut down. The notice was not only too late, but also a gross understatement. By 1985 Ensminger's daughter was diagnosed with leukemia, she died later that year at the age of 6. Years later Ensminger would discover that those "small trace amounts" were 1,400 parts per billion, that's over 280 times the level consider safe for consumption. Even army engineer, William Neal wrote in 1980 that the water was HIGHLY CONTAMINATED WITH...CHLORINATED HYDROCARBONS (SOLVENTS)!... and yes he wrote in capital letters in an official report.
Blatantly ignoring this situation for 30 years is disgraceful. The Navy should not only be paying to conduct these studies, but they should also be providing restitution to these families.