In 1982, the Marine Corps discovered specific VOCs in the drinking water provided by two of the base’s eight operational water treatment plants. Subsequent testing identified contamination in nearly every water source on the installation, including those supplying the family housing units.
Four specific types of VOCs have been identified in the water at Camp Lejeune. These included:
Some VOCs — including benzene, PCE, and TCE — can increase your risk for cancer if swallowed or inhaled in large amounts over a long period. At very high levels, they can cause damage to the nervous and immune systems and the kidneys and liver. Children are especially vulnerable because of their smaller size and developing brains and bodies.
An estimated one million soldiers, family members, and civilian workers were exposed to contaminated water during the contamination period. Some used it for drinking, bathing, and washing for months or years. Unusually high rates of certain cancers, congenital disabilities, and other VOC-related illnesses have been observed in individuals who lived at Camp Lejeune during that time.
Many sources of contamination have been identified, but there may be additional sources that remain unknown. Evidence shows that a nearby dry-cleaning company was a major source of TCE contamination. Waste containment units on the base have been linked to PCE, VC, and benzene contamination.
Today, the water at Camp Lejeune is likely safe for human consumption. When the U.S. Marine Corps discovered high levels of VOCs in the water in the early 1980s, they took steps to fix the problem. They shut down the most heavily contaminated wells and rerouted water supplies to treatment plants that tested within acceptable levels for VOCs and other contaminants.
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