Controversy Grows Over Contaminated Water on Marine Base

In what could be one of the largest contaminated water cases in U.S. history, hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against the U.S. military over dirty water at Camp Lejeune, a North Carolina Marine Corps base. In 1980, tests of drinking water wells at the base revealed high levels of toxic chemicals, but the Marine Corps did not close the wells until 1985. In the intervening five years, between 50,000 (the Corps’ estimate) and 200,000 (victims’ groups’ estimate) people bathed in and drank the water. A survey in 1999 revealed a number of ailments among former base residents, and a group called Water Victims is lobbying Congress to investigate the case. The Marine Corps points out that in the early 1980s the U.S. EPA had no enforceable standards for the chemicals found in the base’s drinking water, only “recommended levels.” Victims, legal experts, several members of Congress, and most everybody else are not impressed with that defense.