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thedrifter
12-01-07, 09:16 AM
Published: Dec 01, 2007 12:30 AM
Modified: Dec 01, 2007 03:01 AM

Report: Lejeune radiation OK
No unusual levels found at facilities
Mike Baker, The Associated Press

RALEIGH - There are no unnatural levels of radioactivity at a former Navy research facility at Camp Lejeune, or near a base rifle range where material from the laboratory was buried decades ago, according to an analysis conducted for the military.

Officials at Camp Lejeune, the Marine Corps' primary base on the Atlantic Ocean, sought the analysis after the discovery of a document earlier this year that showed the Navy had "safely stored" 160 pounds of soil and two animal carcasses laced with strontium-90, an isotope that causes cancer and leukemia.

The paperwork from 1981 said the material was awaiting shipment to an approved disposal site in South Carolina, but military officials could not find definitive proof that it had been moved.

"We wanted to straighten this out to make sure, so that everybody can have peace of mind," said 1st Lt. Craig Thomas, base spokesman. "The bottom line is, we don't want to put any buildings into areas that are questionable. The safety of our men and women is of utmost importance."

The material came from a Naval Medical Field Research Laboratory that operated at the base from 1943 to 1964. Researchers worked in a building that's now part of the base's Naval Hospital, studying dogs that had been given radioisotopes. Their carcasses were usually burned in a more remote area about a mile away, according to the report.

New World Environmental Inc., the California-based contractor that conducted the analysis, said the incinerator used to burn the carcasses sufficiently diluted the radiation.

The Marines informed the Environmental Protection Agency about the material while discussing the possible construction of a building on the burial site. An earlier investigation had found no harmful materials at the site.

But Jerry Ensminger, the former Marine master sergeant who uncovered the 1981 document, questioned the latest report's conclusions that natural sources are the cause of elevated levels of radiation in a few areas around the former lab and the disposal site. The concrete pad of the incinerator, he noted, showed a radiation level above that of a background sample.

"There have been so many lies told about contamination at Camp Lejeune in the past," Ensminger said. "Why should I accept anything they say today as the truth?"

Ensminger came across the Navy document while researching the base's history of contaminated water.

Over three decades, tens of thousands of Marines at Camp Lejeune and their families drank and bathed in water contaminated with industrial solvents. The wells, shut off in the mid-1980s, had as many as 40 times more toxins than permitted by safety standards.

The base's water now meets federal standards. Ensminger served in the Marine Corps more than 24 years, living for part of that time at Camp Lejeune.

His 9-year-old daughter, Janey, died of cancer in 1985.

Ellie