The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
The Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, located in eastern North Carolina, has a troubling history. In 1987, a terrible incident occurred on the base that would forever change the lives of thousands of people. The event remains one of the most significant environmental disasters in American history. In this blog post, we will delve into what happened at Camp Lejeune in 1987 and its lasting impact on the base and the surrounding community.
In 1982, the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune discovered that two of its on-base drinking water wells had been contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These chemicals include dry-cleaning fluid and industrial solvents, which are known to be harmful to human health. In response, the base shut down the affected wells and began supplying residents with water from off-base sources.
Unfortunately, this did not solve the problem. Between 1953 and 1987, the base had disposed of millions of gallons of industrial waste and other chemicals into the ground. These hazardous materials seeped into the soil and groundwater, polluting all the base’s drinking water. Many residents were unaware of the contamination and continued to drink, shower, and bathe in the polluted water.
It wasn’t until 1987 that the contamination was discovered and announced publicly. That year, the Marine Corps released a commandant, detailing the health concerns caused by the pollution at Camp Lejeune. This sparked a series of investigations that revealed vast levels of contamination on the base and it was soon discovered that thousands of Marines and their families had been exposed to toxic chemicals, including benzene and vinyl chloride.
The consequences of the contamination were devastating. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), an estimated 750,000 people were exposed to the toxic chemicals at Camp Lejeune. Residents of the base experienced a range of health problems, including birth defects, cancers, and neurological disorders. The ATSDR has reported that the exposure at Camp Lejeune has resulted in an estimated 15,000 deaths.
The families of the residents impacted by the contamination at Camp Lejeune came together to fight for justice calling for a water contamination lawsuit, giving those affected compensation. In 2012, President Obama signed the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act, which offered compensation to those affected by water contamination at the base. The act also ordered the Department of Veterans Affairs to review medical records and provide care, without charge, for those exposed to the toxic chemicals.
The story of what happened at Camp Lejeune in 1987 is a tragic one. The contamination caused widespread damage to the residents and the environment, with severe health consequences for many. This disaster serves as a reminder of the importance of safe environmental management and the need to take swift action when harmful substances are discovered. Most importantly, it highlights the power of ordinary citizens to come together to fight for justice and make a real difference in the lives of others.