Wire: Probe Urged Into Camp Lejeune Toxic Water
Off the Wire:
WASHINGTON, Feb. 19, 2010 -- Newswire services this morning reported that a North Carolina congressman said Thursday that he wants an investigation into reports that levels of a cancer-causing chemical in tap water at a Marine Corps base were downplayed and then omitted from official documents.
The Associated Press reported that Democratic Rep. Brad Miller has called for the probe by his House science subcommittee Thursday -- a day after AP reported on new documents that indicate massive fuel leaks at Camp Lejeune and high concentrations of benzene found in a water well there in 1984.
"I am just disbelieving of their failure to act. It may have been worse than a failure to act. They may have acted to minimize or prevent the risk from being disclosed," Miller told the Associated Press on Thursday. "It is hard to imagine they would let this go on. There was too much information that they had to have consciously disregarded."AP said health officials believe as many as 1 million people may have been exposed to tainted water at the base before the wells closed two decades ago.
Benzene, a carcinogen, is a natural part of crude oil and gasoline. Drinking water containing high levels of it can cause vomiting, dizziness, sleepiness, convulsions and death. Long-term exposure damages bone marrow, lowers the number of red blood cells, and can cause anemia and leukemia, according to the EPA.
In 1984, an environmental contractor found benzene at 380 parts per billion at a well near a fuel farm. When a draft report was turned in, the level was changed to 38 parts per billion. The company's final report on the well, issued in 1994, did not mention the benzene.
The Marine Corps had been warned nearly a decade earlier about the dangerously high levels of benzene, which was traced to massive leaks from fuel tanks at the base on the North Carolina coast. The benzene was discovered as part of a broader, ongoing probe into that contamination.
Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Mich., the Chair Emeritus of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the Marines and their families "deserve to know exactly what was in the water."
(Report from newswire sources.)