Questions and Answers
History of Discovery
Outreach and Registration
Health and Environment
History of Discovery
Q: When and how were the chemicals in drinking water discovered and addressed? Were there drinking water regulations for these chemicals at the time?
A: In the early 1980s, Camp Lejeune began to test drinking water for trihalomethanes (THMs) because of new regulations that had been announced by the EPA for those chemicals. THMs are chemicals that are created when water is treated with chlorine. While these initial tests for THMs were being conducted, other chemicals, unidentified at the time, were sometimes interfering with the results. Through special testing of the drinking water system in 1982, the chemicals causing the interference with THM testing were identified as TCE and PCE. The test results varied between drinking water samples collected at different times. Base officials were unable to immediately identify the source of the chemicals. Beginning in 1984, as part of the environmental cleanup program, some drinking water wells were tested near potential former disposal sites. Benzene, a volatile organic compound (VOC), was found in one of the wells serving the Hadnot Point water system. When base officials were notified of the result, the well was taken out of service on the same day it was found to be affected, and a more comprehensive well testing effort began. When this testing identified volatile organic compounds in specific drinking water wells, the affected wells were removed from service. There were no drinking water regulations established for these chemicals at that time.
Outreach and Registration
Q: When did the Marine Corps notify people about the drinking water problem?
A: Our outreach efforts began in 1984 following the discovery of chemicals in the drinking water wells. The base newspaper ran an article in December 1984. In May 1985, the Marine Corps held a press event which resulted in multiple articles in local newspapers. In 2000-2001, we helped recruit participants for a health study being conducted by the ATSDR through an extensive notification effort through the media and military messages. Today, we continue to engage in community outreach and world- wide notification activities through press releases, public notices in newspapers and magazines, website announcements and direct mailings. We have established a drinking water Notification Database that now includes over 225,000 individuals. For the most current registrant count, visit www.marines.mil/clwater
Q: How can I register to receive updated information?
A: Register at www.marines.mil/clwater
or through the Toll Free Call Center at (877) 261-9782.
Q: How do I update my contact information?
A: Please contact the Toll Free Call Center at (877) 261-9782 and they will update your contact information, or go to the front page of our website: www.marines.mil/clwater
Health and Environment
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.
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 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);
Q: Who may have been exposed?
• 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.
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: Could my health condition be related to chemicals in the drinking water?
A: We do not know if past exposure to these chemicals in Camp Lejeune’s drinking water caused adverse health effects in specific individuals. We continue to work with leading scientific organizations in an effort to provide comprehensive science-based answers to the health questions that have been raised. Information about completed, and ongoing, ATSDR studies can be found by visiting: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/sites/lejeune/
Q: What should I do about any medical condition I may have or suspect I have?
A: We encourage you to contact your family physician regarding any concerns you may have about your health or your family’s health. To receive updated information, please sign up on our Notification Database by either calling the Call Center or visiting www.marines.mil/clwater
Q: How will I know when ATSDR studies are complete?
A: Upon conclusion of ATSDR studies, the Marine Corps will notify individuals registered in our Notification Database via mail and email, and broader notification will occur via media outlets and announcements on the Marine Corps website.
Q: Are there health benefits that may be available to me?
A: On August 6, 2012, President Barack Obama signed into law the "Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012."
Veterans and family members who served on active duty or resided at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more between January 1, 1957 and December 31, 1987 may be eligible for medical care for 15 health conditions. The Department of Veterans Affairs offers more information about health benefits and eligibility at http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/camp-lejeune/.