Federal health officials continue to uncover excessive levels of previous water contamination at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. A new study of the North Carolina base’s main water system that was released Friday demonstrates a rapidly increasing level of human carcinogens in the drinking water starting as early as 1948 and peaking in the mid-1980s.
“These are highest levels of drinking water contamination in this country that I’m aware of,” said Richard Clapp, an epidemiologist at the University of Massachusetts Lowell who’s studied the findings.
As many as 1 million Marine veterans and family members may have been exposed to poisoned drinking water. Medical experts have linked the contamination to cancer, birth defects, childhood leukemia and other diseases. The levels of human carcinogens such as trichloroethylene in the water systems were more than 150 times higher than what’s considered safe.
“The most likely date that TCE first exceeded its current (maximum contaminant level) is during August 1953; however, this exceedance could have been as early as November 1948,” says the report, by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.