Questions, Uncertainty, Distrust over Lejeune Water

Photo courtesy: The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten web site.

Saturday was sunny and balmy in Tampa – a day for outdoor enjoyment. Yet, more than 200 people sat inside the Marriott Westshore Hotel salon for hours watching a slide presentation.

Many wore the USMC logo on a ball cap, shirt or jacket signifying their loyalty to the Corps. A loyalty retired Marine drill instructor Jerry Ensminger said was betrayed by USMC leaders. He accused Marine Corps leaders of misleading Marines, their families and civilians about toxic chemicals that polluted Camp Lejeune‘s drinking water for three decades.

“These people have a right to know the truth,” Ensminger said. “I’m not speculating. What we’re presenting in there. What we’re presenting are documents that came right from the Marine Corps and Department of Navy’s own files.”

People at the informational session came with questions about the polluted water at Camp Lejeune. They asked simple requests like how to get cancer checkups every six month instead of annually because “some cancer can move fast,” unidentified participant reflected as he spoke into the microphone that was being passed around.

Photo courtesy: The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten web site.

Many there are already listed on the Marine Corps Lejeune Registry for those who served, worked or lived at Camp Lejeune and were exposed to toxic drinking water from 1957 until 1987. It’s estimated more than 14,000 are Florida residents, second only to North Carolina with the most effected residents.

The gathering, funded by a law firm representing some families, was “to share information” said Ensminger, whose daughter, Janey, was conceived while he was stationed at Camp Lejeune. Janey died of leukemia at age 9. The law firm pays for his travel, hotel room and food. But, Ensminger said he takes no money for his appearances.

“Since all of this came out, the United States Marine Corps and the Navy all have done everything they can to confuse the issue,” Ensminger told reporters during the lunch break. “They’ve obfuscated the facts to the point where a lot of folks like these people that are at this meeting today (Saturday) really don’t know what to believe.”

Photo courtesy: The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten web site.

Additional information has come to light since an initial report, the 1997 Camp Lejeune Public Health Assessment Report. That report was removed from the ATSDR web site because it may be “misleading” according to the site. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry is conducting additional health studies and scientific water models because toxic chemicals were found in other locations.

Ensminger has faith in the validity of the new studies in part because he was included in their design.

In the interim, there’s a lot of uncertainty. Ensminger and Mike Partain, who was born at Camp Lejeune, are leading informational sessions to provide answers based on documents. Partain was one of five men at the gathering and one of 67 men who lived at Camp Lejeune that have been diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer.

The Tampa meeting is the largest one yet according to Ensminger. Other meetings have been conducted in Orlando, Pittsburgh, Virginia and North Carolina. He said a webinar will be held in late January. More information is available on their web site The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten.

“The Department of Defense is constantly, with the all volunteer force, they’re constantly asking American families to loan them their loved ones in the service of this country,” Ensminger said. “Look at their conduct in this Camp Lejeune thing and you tell me whether they deserve to have these families’ loved ones loaned to them. From what I’m seeing right now, no. and I thought I would never say that.”

Did Your Family Drink Camp Lejeune’s Water?

Camp Lejeune's new wastewater treatment plant.

Toxic chemicals seeped into Camp Lejeune‘s water supply for three decades. The contaminated wells weren’t shut down until 1987, years after tests first indicated the water was polluted.

Additionally, Camp Lejeune officials didn’t immediately contact effected families. Here’s a Stars and Stripes timeline of events.

The Camp Lejeune water quality reports are available online.

The Navy mailed letters in May 2010 to veterans stationed at Camp Lejeune informing them of the water contamination between 1957 and 1987. You can download a VA Health Care fact sheet on Camp Lejeune Water Contamination.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has set up a web site with details and also conducted several health studies with Camp Lejeune families.

Marine families once based at Lejeune who have questions about health problems plan to gather today for an informational meeting. Mike Partainat (strashni2002@yahoo.com) is organizing the gathering planned from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Tampa Marriott Westshore, 1001 N. Westshore Blvd.

Former residents and employees of Camp Lejeune can register on the Marine Corps’ official water study website at https://clnr.hqi.usmc.mil/. There’s also a toll free line with the Department of Navy 877-261-9782 staffed Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. or email at clwater@usmc.mil.

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