Local News

Camp Lejeune Marines May Have Been Exposed To Contaminated Drinking Water

Posted October 31, 2000 6:00 a.m. EST

— The Pentagon is admitting Marines were exposed to toxic chemicals in their drinking water at Camp Lejeune near Jacksonville.

The contamination dates back nearly 20 years between 1968 and 1985. The U.S. Marine Corps has spent the past year trying to contact people who lived on base, but with limited success. Wednesday, the Pentagon finally stepped forward, hoping to get the word out.

Rusty pipes are all that remain of the contaminated wells at Camp Lejeune. For the U.S. Marine Corps, the problem still remains trying to track down thousands of servicemen and their families.

"They are just looking to see what kind of health concerns may be out there within the 13,000 people that lived here during that time so they can draw conclusions as to, whether or not, there may have been health issues raised by the contamination," says environmental manager Scott Brewer.

Health officials think women on base gave birth to a high number of babies with birth defects.

Marine wife Deborah Horney had a miscarriage, and one of her children had a growth on his neck.

"Some of the stories were horrific. We actually consider ourselves relatively lucky compared to some of the people who had children who were born severely deformed and may have lived a few days, or people who had children who died," she says.

Marine Rob Cook was not on base during the time of the contamination, but he says water problems have continued off base. He and his pregnant wife, Christine, switched to filtered water when they noticed the water killed their fish.

"I don't drink anything but filtered water because I do not trust the water system in Jacksonville at all," says Christine.

Many of the families wonder why it took the Marines so long to come forward.

"People I've talked to have raised concerns as to why it has taken 15 years to start notifying people of this potential problem, and that is a valid concern," says Col. Mike Lehnert of the U.S. Marine Corps. "I truly believe that the decisions that were made were based upon the best information that science could provide at that time. When ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) came to us and said there may be a cause for concern, we took action."

The U.S. Marine Corps has a hotline to answer questions about the tainted wells. The number is877-261-9782.