Background Information / Chemicals and Exposure
Chemicals and Exposure

Chemicals Previously Detected in the Drinking Water System

Q. Is the water at Camp Lejeune currently safe to drink?

A. The drinking water at Camp Lejeune currently meets or exceeds all government drinking water standards, including the Safe Drinking Water Act, and is tested more often than required. For Camp Lejeune’s annual water quality reports, please see: http://www.lejeune.usmc.mil/emd/reports/annualreports.htm.

Q: What efforts are currently in place to ensure the safety of the water?

A: Current efforts to ensure the water is safe fall into three categories: water quality testing, compliance with current waste management regulations, and cleanup of past hazardous waste sites. Water quality testing efforts, including those covered under the Safe Drinking Water Act and those that are voluntary, are described in the provided Camp Lejeune drinking water sampling material. Many environmental regulations intended to change past industrial practices in the United States that contributed to many of the environmental impacts we face today were promulgated in the early to mid-1970s. Most notable is the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1976. One of the main objectives of RCRA was/is to protect human health and the environment from the potential hazards of waste disposal. Camp Lejeune follows RCRA, as well as many other Federal and State regulations, to help prevent any future groundwater contamination. Regarding the cleanup of past hazardous waste sites, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) authorized Federal action to respond to releases of hazardous substances into the environment. These cleanup efforts protect current drinking water by addressing potential sources of contamination and preventing the migration of contaminants into drinking water supplies. Camp Lejeune has an active program in compliance with CERCLA to address past hazardous waste sites and address groundwater contamination before it impacts drinking water

Q. What chemicals were previously detected in the drinking water system?

A. The chemicals previously detected in the drinking water were a class of chemicals known as “volatile organic compounds.” These chemicals were commonly used as solvents for cleaning machinery and weapons, for dry cleaning, and some are found in fuels.

These chemicals include:

• Trichloroethylene (TCE), primarily used as a metal cleaner (i.e., for cleaning weapons, engine parts, and machinery);

• Tetrachloroethylene (also known as PCE, perc, or perchloroethylene), primarily used in dry cleaning;

• Benzene and toluene, chemicals found in gasoline and other fuels;

• Vinyl chloride, 1,2-dichloroethylene, and 1,1-dichloroethylene, breakdown products of TCE and PCE; and

• Methylene chloride, a chemical solvent used in laboratories and in removing paint.

Q. Who may have been exposed?

A. Best estimates from ATSDR’s water modeling efforts indicate that some of the base’s water was affected by chemicals as early as 1953 until as late as 1987.

Q. What amounts of the chemicals were in the drinking water?

We can’t be certain. The lack of historic data creates uncertainties with accurately estimating levels of the chemicals in the water that occurred decades ago. ATSDR has completed a water modeling study to estimate the level of chemicals in drinking water at Camp Lejeune. Detailed information may be found in tables published in reports by ATSDR and the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council (NAS/NRC) which can be viewed at either http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/sites/lejeune or http://www.nationalacademies.org/morenews/20090613.html.

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