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Press Release: Commandant Appoints Independent Panel to Review Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Events
(Release # 0220-04-2241)
February 20, 2004

United States Marine Corps
Division of Public Affairs

HEADQUARTERS MARINE CORPS - The Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Mike Hagee, has convened an independent panel to review the events at Camp Lejeune between 1980 and 1985, which pertain to the decision to close several wells which supplied drinking water to portions of the base. We are deeply concerned about the health issues raised by members of our Marine Corps family and are working diligently to ensure that anyone affected during this period and beyond is well cared for, said Gen. Hagee. Marines take care of each other on the battlefield and in garrison and this case is no different. A Marine is a Marine for life.

Evidence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in some of the base’s drinking water was first discovered in 1980. The source of the VOCs was not known at the time. In 1984, Camp Lejeune learned that the volatile organic compounds, or VOCs affected some wells, and that all of the impacted wells were closed by 1985. Since 1999, the Marine Corps has supported a study by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to determine if there is a link between VOCs found in some of the drinking water, and certain childhood illnesses.

The circumstances surrounding the Camp Lejeune water contamination issue involve numerous decisions and documents that span more than 20 years, said Gen. Hagee. It is incumbent upon us to seek answers to relevant and appropriate questions from any available documentation and interviews with former officials. Informing and supporting our Marine families remains our top priority, and we must do better to convey this through decisive action and forthright communication. The convening of this independent panel is an important step in accomplishing that objective.

The panel will be comprised of three private sector professionals with expertise in environmental, engineering and military command issues. The three-member panel will spend the next 6 months reviewing any available and pertinent documents, and interviewing past and present base officials. This will be done to clarify the sequence of events that led to the decisions made during the five-year period in question. The panel will operate independently and will have free and open access to all relevant information. The panel will not impact the work of the ongoing ATSDR study.

A report of the panel's findings will be submitted to the Commandant by 1 September 2004. After reviewing the report, I will make every effort to conclude this matter in a way that is satisfactory to our Marines, their families and the general public, said Gen. Hagee. The report and any resultant actions will be provided to the families, Congress and the general public as soon as practical. Additional information on the panel’s charter and progress will be released as available and appropriate.

The panel is being convened to gather facts for the purpose of informing our Marines and their families who could have been affected, said Gen. Hagee. Continued questions from interested families and other parties, prompted us to examine the chronology of events with more scrutiny. In the course of this deeper examination, we realized additional facts needed to be acquired and reviewed. We must leave no stone unturned on this important issue. We think an independent panel, focused on that defined purpose, is the best way to effectively and expeditiously review this situation, Hagee continued.

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