Local News

Retired Marine takes Lejeune contamination concerns to Capitol Hill

Posted May 24, 2016 6:21 p.m. EDT
Updated May 24, 2016 6:46 p.m. EDT

— Retired Marine Jerry Ensminger took his longstanding concerns regarding widespread water contamination at Camp Lejeune to Capitol Hill Tuesday.

Ensminger's daughter, Janey, died of leukemia in 1985 at the age of 9. He helped prove contaminated water at Camp Lejeune poisoned people for three decades and said the water may have contributed to his daughter's death.

In 2012, the Janey Ensminger Act was passed and covered people who developed eight different diseases linked to the toxins.

A new version adds protections for veterans.

"Not only is this legislation another step in rectifying the gross injustice committed against Camp Lejeune victims, it also has the potential of saving American taxpayers hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in the future," Ensminger said.

Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs uses outside contractors to decide what diseases will be covered. Ensminger said the process is costly and arbitrary.

"(That’s) a lot of money that could have been spent caring for our veterans, rather than devising methods in attempts to cheat them out of the benefits they deserve," he said.

The new law would require an arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to continually review scientific studies to see if there are links between the contamination and additional diseases.

"The bill confirms to the hundreds of thousands of Marines, sailors, their families and thousands of civilian employees who were negligently exposed to the highest levels of harmful contaminants ever recorded in a major drinking water system that the U.S. Senate delegation of North Carolina has our backs," Ensminger said.

He said the law would prevent veterans from long wait periods for treatment while an outside contractor decides if their illness is covered.