Federal health officials have determined that water contamination at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune exceeded safe levels as far back as August 1953, four years earlier than previous findings.
The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry also found that water had been contaminated at two additional water distribution systems on the base.
“This a big deal,” said Jerry Ensminger, a retired Marine master sergeant who was stationed at Lejeune and whose daughter died of a rare form of leukemia in 1985 at age 9. “You’re talking tens of thousands of more people being exposed.”
Confirming the presence of human carcinogens on the base as far back as 1953 will expand the eligibility of veterans and family members who can receive health benefits under the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012, said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., who introduced the legislation.
“There are veterans out there, some of them in dire straits, who have been waiting a long time for these findings,” Burr said in a statement. “Until now, (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) has been unable to help them.... we owe them the care they need without delay.”