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08-11-07, 09:20 AM #1
Marine families still stonewalled
Marine families still stonewalled
People who drank poisoned water from Camp Lejeune wells must be near the end of their ropes. After 20 years, they still don't have facts and findings that the government doesn't have or hasn't revealed.
Now they're being told they'll have to wait longer - maybe until the end of the year.
Government scientists may now be doing their best to find the truth and find it quickly. They may be right in saying they need months more. But they shouldn't be surprised if their conclusions are greeted with skepticism.
The Marine families and Marine employees who drank from tainted wells over a 30-year period weren't told of the danger then or of the possible consequences since then. And the coverup - it's hard to call it anything else - continues.
The Bush administration objected in June when a congressional committee asked for testimony from an investigator for the Environmental Protection Agency. He told the committee that it looked as if civilian employees of the Navy had been coached before they were questioned in 2005.
Even now, the government is hiding documents, claiming that releasing them would endanger national security - the administration's all-purpose excuse.
Given this stonewalling, it's no wonder that many former Lejeune residents don't believe what they are being told. No wonder some believe the contaminated water caused serious, sometimes fatal, illnesses.
They may not be right about that. But they are obviously right about their government's unconscionable failure to take this issue seriously and to deal with it - and them - honorably.
Honor is something Marines are taught to believe in. Too bad other employees of the federal government aren't.
08-12-07, 06:35 AM #2
Senators seek to alert Marines
Sunday, August 12, 2007
By JO-ANN MORIARTY
WASHINGTON - U.S. Sens. John F. Kerry and Edward M. Kennedy are backing legislation to alert former Marines and their families that the water they drank at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina between the 1950s and 1980s was contaminated with toxic chemicals.
The two Massachusetts Democrats will support an amendment written by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., that would require the Secretary of the Navy to identify and directly notify former and retired Marines, their families and civilian employees who lived and worked at Camp Lejeune from 1958 to 1987 of their possible exposure to contaminated drinking water.
In turn, Dole is supporting legislation introduced by Kerry and U.S. Sen. Hillary R. Clinton, D-N.Y., that would require the federal government to limit the public exposure to water supplies that contain trichloroethylene, which was found in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune and is linked to certain kinds of cancers.
The congressional support is something sought by Hampden residents, former Marine Sgt. Thomas McLaughlin and Sally J. McLaughlin, who lived at Camp Lejeune between 1963 and 1964 and whose infant daughter, Michelle, later died of anencephaly (absence of a brain).
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry is conducting a study to determine if exposure to drinking water contaminated with TCE (trichloroethylene), a chemical degreaser, and PCE (tetrachloroethylene), a solvent used in dry cleaning, are associated with certain kinds of birth defects and childhood cancers. The report is expected to be released next year.
The agency released a report in June, after years of research, confirming that the levels of toxic solvents at Camp Lejeune were 40 times higher than allowed by today's federal standards.
Sally McLaughlin said despite her difficult pregnancy and the death of her daughter, she and her husband were unaware that the government had made such a finding until it was reported nationally.
She contacted The Republican which published a story on July 22 about her experience at Camp Lejeune, her difficult pregnancy and her question she now has about whether there was a possible link between her baby's severe birth defect and her exposure to the contaminated water.
About the same time in June, her husband discovered that he had kidney cancer, a disease also associated with exposure to PCE and TCE. Physicians were able to save 95 percent of his kidney.
"I think that everybody who knows that there were exposed to toxic water will be more inclined to pay close attention to their body signals and go to the doctors if something doesn't feel quite right," Sally McLaughlin said.
The notice about exposure to the toxic water may also provide relief to women who inexplicably lost babies and children to birth defects and illnesses.
"We carry around these horrible burdens because our babies died," Mrs. McLaughlin said. "Some of these women had babies that just died. They looked perfectly normal, like they were sleeping. Does it bring closure? No. It opens wounds. But it has taken some of the burden off my shoulders - did I eat enough vegetables, did I get enough sleep, did a take an aspirin? I just know that for years I didn't know what I did wrong."
When Springfield resident Darrell F. Stasiak, the wife of a former Marine who was also stationed at Camp Lejeune, read about the McLaughlins, their story called into question the unexpected death of her baby, a girl they named Eileen Marie.
"This is our story with different names," Stasiak wrote to The Republican. She and her Marine husband, Paul, were stationed in Camp Lejeune from 1966 through 1968 and lived in housing provided by the base just outside the main gate.
"We drank and bathed in the water every day. Our daughter Eileen Marie was stillborn there on Sept. 13, 1966. No explanation of her death was ever given," Stasiask wrote. "She was buried in Jacksonville cemetery. It was actually a small cemetery across from the main cemetery that we called, 'Baby Heaven.'"
The couple attempted to place a marker on her grave in 1991, but the cemetery officials told Stasiak, "that they couldn't tell me where she was buried because babies were dying so fast, they were buried three to a grave. They could tell us within 10 or 20 feet where she was buried."
Stasiak, in an interview with The Republican, said she remained in the hospital while her husband took care of the burial arrangements for their daughter. But that sad ceremony was not uncommon.
"We were hearing every week of someone taking a baby home to bury it," Stasiak said. "It was common. We thought it was because we were so young and there were so many of us. Who knew it was the water?"
After the death of her baby girl, Stasiak had two miscarriages while she and her husband lived at the base. She delivered a healthy baby in February 1969, followed by a stillbirth later that year. She had her second healthy baby boy in 1970. By the time she was in her mid-20s, she had a hysterectomy.
Stasiask said she believes anyone who drank contaminated water has the right to know and that their government has the responsibility to tell them.
Candyce A. Little, of Dalton, the wife of the late Marine, George W. Rollins, lived at Camp Lejeune with her husband from 1970 to 1972.
She said she conceived her first baby at Camp Lejeune and that the pregnancy seemed normal.
"I had prenatal care right up to the day she was born," Little told The Republican. "I could feel her kicking and moving all the time of my pregnancy."
Her husband was subsequently discharged from the military and the couple moved back to Pittsfield to have their first baby at Berkshire Medical Center.
"On the day she was born, I was taken into the delivery room and was put to sleep. When I awoke I could see the baby at another bed across the room," Little recalled. "When I asked how the baby was, the doctor said, 'She's dead.' They put the baby in my arms and let me hold her."
They named her Michelle.
The couple, who had met on a hayride when they were teens, had two healthy sons. But five years after leaving the Marine Corps, George Rollins was diagnosed with acute leukemia, she said. "George died in January 1977," Little said, five days shy short of her youngest son's first birthday.
Her husband was 25 years old.
Little has known about the toxic water at Camp Lejeune since 1999, after catching a glimpse of a news report on CNN. She said it is about time the government tells the military families that were stationed at Lejeune about the health risks exposure to the water could cause.
"Then they could say, 'OK, this may be a possibility of my problems,'" Little said. "Everybody has to be told. There are too many who don't know about this."
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