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Archive for the ‘Trichloroethene’ Category

Capitalist ruling class systems and their political puppets and systems are not your protectors and they never will be. Your taxes build the systems and technologies that destroy working class health and enrich their pockets not yours.

Posting this in loving memory of Jason Johnson. (World’s best euchre partner and dear friend)

Jason was born with a cleft palate. The organochlorine munition technology responsible for that birth defect has precision sniper fire during fetal development. Most are unaware that that particular munition’s sniper fire also often hits other developing organs at the same time. It also struck his wonderful heart. Jason dropped dead of a heart attack while walking across campus. He was only 21-years-old and never got the opportunity to teach his own science class. He was my TA in my Elements of Earth Science class and he befriended me after my fall from grace at our small Lutheran University in River Forest, IL. It’s a hard social fall when you reject the church you were raised in and call off an engagement to one of the most popular men on campus. Jason softened my landing. Playing cards and catch in the courtyard while talking about science and life with Jason made life beautiful again. I didn’t like his favorite music but I tolerated listening to it because his company was what I appreciated more.

“Get out of here! Transfer to the University of Iowa and don’t be afraid. Don’t even be afraid of dying. Study the stars and learn about the world and its history. You’ve already outgrown this small minded place. The university is large but your mind is even bigger than that place because it’s opened wide,” he said. I listened to his wise advice. Jason’s life was struck painfully short. So very thankful that Jason was my dear friend. Friends like Jason make you stronger. I wish he were still here. I am sober and wide awake now, dear friend. I am so very thankful that his voice is still in my mind guiding me through my life. The people I have loved and been loved by have shaped me more than any human created institution. I’ve discovered that the same ruling class capitalists destroying our working class biological health are the ones that also control and destroy the institutions that should be explaining their technologies and systems that destroy our collective health. Our taxes fill their pockets and not the victims of their systems and technologies…

I know he would love knowing that I occasionally listen to Tool because it reminds me of him. I refused to not “rot in an apathetic existence.” I know Jason would be proud of all that I’ve learned.

Those who have cleft palates need to make certain that their hearts are healthy and strong. Infants born with cleft palates only have their hearts checked if they hear something that indicates that something is wrong. It is essential that Infants born with cleft palates have a thorough examination of their hearts as they grow. In a literate working class controlled world, we would not design our habitat systems that mass produce the organochlorine munition technology causes of the defects in the first place. We don’t even need these technologies or our capital ruling class parasites and their community destroying systems either.

An excerpt from Poisoned Profits: The Toxic Assault on Our Children by Philip Shabecoff and Alice Shabecoff.

“The small city of Dickson is in the middle of Tennessee, but it could be anywhere in America… (or our world)

Not God’s Fault

The attending physician kept up a cheerful, reassuring stream of talk as he assisted Jenny in her Labor. “Peyton came facedown. When Dr. Booker turned him over, he stopped talking,” Judy recalled. “He had his back to us, but when the nurse gave him a shove, he turned around and had tears running down his cheeks.”

The baby’s face was badly disfigured with a cleft lip and a bilateral cleft palate. And though they did not know it immediately, Peyton also had a damaged heart., a valve that failed to close properly. “I had never seen this defect except after it had been fixed,” Judy said of Peyton’s cleft palate. “My heart was in my throat. My husband walked into the room and put his arm around me, and we went into the hall. The first thing I said was, ‘Why would God do this to me, as much as I love children and worked with them all my life? Why would he do this?’ My husband said, “Honey, this is not God’s fault.’

“ Two weeks after Peyton was born, Jenny was given the name of another mother in Dickson whose child, born a couple months earlier, also had a cleft palate. Then a woman called Judy at her daycare center and asked if she could accommodate children with special needs because ultrasound tests found that her child was about to be born with a cleft palate. “That made three,” Judy said. She and the other mothers kept a tally. Soon they counted six. Judy placed a newspaper advertisement asking families with similar defects to contact her. And, as it turned out, nineteen children had been born in Dickson with a cleft lip and palate in a little over two years. The odds against such a series of identical birth defects were almost certainly too high to be coincidental. In a city the size of Dickson, perhaps as many as two cases of bilateral cleft lip and palate might be expected in the same period. Clearly, something was happening.

Cleft palates were not the only ills afflicting Dickson’s children. Within a brief period, four babies were born with a rare brain malformation, where the two hemispheres of the brain are not connected. There have been a large number of cases of hypospadias, a condition in male children where the urethra is inverted. There also has been a high incidence of heart problems in Dickson babies, as well as childhood leukemia, the families reported.

“When I realized how many children had defects, I called the Dickson County Health Department,” Judy said. “The registered nurse there said, ‘We’ll bring this up and call you back.’ They never did. I’m still waiting six years later. Then I called the Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention (CDC)] in Atlanta, but they said, ‘This isn’t what we do.’ ” Finally, on the advice of a public health official in Nashville, she contacted Betty Mekdeci, who runs a nonprofit organization in Orlando, Florida, that monitors birth defects around the nation. Mekdeci told her that there were as many babies with cleft palates born in Dickson during that period as in the entire state of Wisconsin and nine times the national average. Following Mekdeci’s advice, Judy got a map of Dickson County and put an “X” down to mark the location of each family with a cleft palate baby. What she found was surprising. Most of the families lived in the southwest quadrant of the county, where Dickson County landfill is located.

The landfill had opened in 1968 as the Dickson City dump. A decade later, the county brought the property and expanded it for use as a sanitary landfill; though the Tennessee Department of Public Health found the area suitable for use as a sanitary landfill, it recommended that no liquid wastes be disposed of there. Nevertheless, the landfill too began accepting industrial liquid wastes from manufacturing facilities in the area, including Scoville-Schrader, Inc., which made automotive parts. It would be another ten years, however, before tests were conducted to determine if water beneath and around the fill was contaminated, and then only after a nearby resident contacted the county to voice suspicion that a spring on her property might be contaminated.

It was. Tests conducted by private contractors working for the county and state, and later the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), found that a brew of chemicals from the landfill had made its way to the groundwater under the dump and was spreading out through the karst rock, a geological foundation riddled with countless cracks, that underlies much of Dickson County. The pollutants included toxic chemicals such as benzene, toluene, xylene, and most ubiquitously, trichloroethylene (TCE), an industrial solvent widely used for degreasing machine parts and in the production of other chemicals. TCE had been heavily used and then dumped in the landfill and elsewhere by the Scoville-Schrader plant and other manufacturers in the area, Judy Code and other residents said. TCE is known or suspected of causing a number of chronic illnesses, including several forms of cancer and birth defects. There is evidence that it can be a specific cause of cleft palates, although the available data is limited.

Dumping and Denial

By 1975, the Tennessee Department of Public Health said that no more liquid wastes should be disposed of in the landfill, but Scovill continued to dump “trailer loads” of liquids into the facility, according to local residents. Residents told Judy Cude about the barrels carted away by private contractors and buried on farms in the area. One worker confessed to her, “I buried this shit all over the county.” Lynn Agee, a lawyer representing several of the families in lawsuits against Scovill, said that discovery had produced substantial documentation of dumping….

While there were fluctuations, test after test revealed high levels of TCE and other toxic contaminants in the water, including in wells use by families for drinking and bathing and in at least one well that fed Dickson’s public water supply….

Scovill-Schrader pulled up stakes and moved to North Carolina in 1984, resuming a company history of leaving a community and its workers when local conditions proved unpleasant… Don Corn, a UAW official in Tennesse, contends that “Schrader left the Dickson plant because the heat was on. The state environmental agencies were starting to look into their habits, and they were running out of space to put their industrial waste.” Confirming what Judy Cude had heard, Corn adds, “They filled up the area behind their plant and the county landfill and even contracted out to private firms to bury the TCE. Once the cat was out of the bag, many barrels were dug up and hauled to Emelle, Alabama.” – Poisoned Profits: The Toxic Assault on Our Children by Philip Shabecoff and Alice Shabecoff

(Portions from Chapter 1: Inquest.)

Drinking water supplies for 14 million Americans are contaminated with a cancer-causing industrial solvent made notorious by the book and film “A Civil Action,” according to a new EWG analysis of tests from public utilities nationwide. The chemical is trichloroethylene, or TCE.

https://www.ewg.org/childrenshealth/carcinogen-pollutes-tap-water-supplies-14-million-americans/

Most citizens are familiar TCE and W.R. Grace from this film

“A Civil Action is a film based on the true story of a group of families in a small town just north of Boston who sued major US companies in the early 1980s for leukemia deaths and other health problems caused by the dumping of poisonous chemicals that seeped into their community’s water supply. It is also the story of Boston lawyer Jan Schlichtmann, the unlikely hero who took up their cause.

The history of the legal case mounted by residents of Woburn, Massachusetts against chemical giant W.R. Grace and consumer goods conglomerate Beatrice Foods was chronicled in the 500-page 1995 bestseller of the same title written by Jonathon Harr. Twelve children contracted leukemia in the town of 36,000 from the late 1960s to the early ’80s. Of these, eight lived within a half-mile radius of each other and six lived in one east Woburn neighborhood of just 200 families. Cancer deaths in town during the mid-1970s increased by 17 percent.

A new water well had been opened in 1964 near an industrial park. Despite residents’ complaints of “foul, ill-smelling water,” the city refused to shut it down until 1979. Trichloroethylene (TCE) was later found in the well water. In 1979 a half-buried lagoon polluted with toxic chemicals was also discovered, contaminated with arsenic, chromium, lead and animal wastes.”

But few know that Otto Ambros, Hitler’s Director of Chemical Weapons and IG Farben’s Director of Chemical Operations, and J. Peter Grace worked collaboratively. J. Peter Grace worked to protect Ambros repeatedly and the two shared the same business practices of destroying their workers and the communities where their businesses were located as they expanded their munition technology markets.

“Concerning the firms abroad where I am a permanent co-worker advisor,” Ambros wrote, “I won’t name them [publicly] because I don’t want to tip off any journalists who might cause trouble with my friends. You know about W.R. Grace in New York… and I hope I can stay with Hibernia Company.

Concerning the firms in Israel,” Ambros wrote, “stating their names publicly would be very embarrassing because they are [run by] very public, well-respected persons in public positions that have actually been at my home and are aware of my position, how I behaved during the Reich, and they accept this.”

(Keep in mind that these monsters didn’t even use anesthesia when they completed liver biopsies on death camp victims in their research)

The “well-respected” public figures in Israel to whom Ambros referred have never been revealed. That Ambros also had worked for the American company W.R Grace would take decades to come to light. When it did, in the early 1980s, the public would also learn that Otto Ambros worked as a consultant for the U.S. Department of Energy, formerly the Atomic Energy Commission, “to develop and operate a plant for the hydrogenation of coal in a scale of 4 million tons/year at the former IG Farben industry.” That a convicted war criminal had been hired by the Department of Energy sparked indignation, and congressmen and journalists sought further details about Ambros’s U.S. government contract. In a statement to the press, the Department of Energy insisted that the paperwork had been lost…” – Operation Paperclip by Annie Jacobson (page 418.)

Sadly, no capitalist ruling class controlled institution will provide the truth about the biological destruction of their munition technologies and systems created by working class taxes and designed to destroy working class health and profit off that destruction.

A Civil Action Trailer

“Workers exposed to tricholorethylene (TCE), a chemical once widely used to clean metal such as auto parts, may be at a significantly higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 62nd Annual Meeting in Toronto April 10 to April 17, 2010.”

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-02/aaon-icl020210.php

Those long hot showers in communities with TCE water contamination have elevated risks for Parkinson’s disease and much more as well. Many tap water supplies are contaminated with over the health based limit (based on ingestion exposure) for Trichloroethylene.

Inhalation and dermal exposures are not factored into the health based limit. A ten-minute shower or thirty-minute bath contributed a greater internal dose than drinking half a gallon of tap water. http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/docs/1996/104-1/weiselabs.html

Intolerance by Tool

A working class that accepts the munition sniper fire of our children’s epigenome and rejects learning the science that explain the destruction of our children’s development for capital ruling class profits have empty minds and hearts and cease having souls… they are willing participants in the extinction of our species!

Our children deserve far better

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Camp Lejeune and the U.S. Military’s Polluted Legacy
By Alexander Nazaryan / July 16, 2014 5:36 AM EDT

The old railroad track, now a bike and jogging path, winds through the forest that separates Camp Lejeune from Highway 24, which caters to the thousands of Marines stationed here with cheap barbershops that will trim your high-and-tight for $5, furniture stores for the many young families on base, a couple of gun shops, a few bars and the requisite jiggle joint. None of this familiarly shabby Americana is even remotely visible from the verdant path. Trees crowd the sylvan trail like overeager children at a Fourth of July parade, their branches poking through the base’s barbed wire fence. You hear far more woodpeckers and thrushes than Osprey helicopters. Spend enough time on this lush greenway or on the dunes of nearby Onslow Beach and you might forget that Camp Lejeune may be, as Dan Rather once said, “the worst example of water contamination this country has ever seen.”

Camp Lejeune, in Jacksonville, North Carolina, is a toxic paradox, a place where young men and women were poisoned while in the service of their nation. They swore to defend this land, and the land made them sick. And there are hundreds of Camp Lejeunes across the country, military sites contaminated with all manner of pollutants, from chemical weapon graveyards to vast groundwater deposits of gasoline. Soldiers know they might be felled by a sniper’s bullet in Baghdad or a roadside bomb in the gullies of Afghanistan. They might even expect it. But waterborne carcinogens are not an enemy whose ambush they prepare for.

That toxic enemy is far more prevalent than most American suspect, not to mention far more intractable. That the Department of Defense is the world’s worst polluter is a refrain one often hears from environmentalists, who have long-standing, unsurprising gripes with the military-industrial complex. But politics aside, the greenies have a convincing point. Dive into the numbers, as I did, and the Pentagon starts to make Koch Industries look like an organic farm.

In size alone, the Department of Defense dwarfs the footprint of any corporation: 4,127 installations spread across 19 million acres of American soil. Maureen Sullivan, who heads the Pentagon’s environmental programs, told me her office must contend with 39,000 contaminated sites (to be fair, a single base can have several, some as small as a single building).

Camp Lejeune is one of the Department of Defense’s 141 Superfund sites; that’s about 10 percent of all Superfund sites, easily topping any other polluter. And if the definition is broadened out beyond proprietary Pentagon installations, then about 900 of the 1,200 or so Superfund sites in the United States are “abandoned military facilities or facilities that produced materials and products for or otherwise supported military needs,” according to a presidential panel on cancer.

“Almost every military site in this country is seriously contaminated,” said John D. Dingell, a soon-to-retire Michigan congressman who served in World War II. “Lejeune is one of many.”

These military sites form a sort of toxic archipelago across the land: Kelly Air Force Base in Texas, where the Air Force allegedly dumped trichloroethylene (TCE) into the soil, part of what some residents call a “toxic triangle” in south-central Texas; McClellan Air Force Base near Sacramento, California, which includes not only fuel plumes and industrial solvents but also radioactive waste; Umatilla Chemical Depot in the plains of northern Oregon, where mustard gas and VX nerve gas were stored; Rocky Mountain Arsenal, a onetime sarin stockpile just north of Denver; the Massachusetts Military Reservation on Cape Cod, poisoned by explosives and perchlorate, a rocket fuel component that is emerging as a major Pentagon pollutant. But because Camp Lejeune’s abuses and betrayals are more flagrant, it has become a test case for whether the military can defend our soil without ruining it.

To those who suffered at Camp Lejeune, an ugly truth about the American military has revealed itself, a truth no amount of compensation or self-flagellation can vanquish. “I would never recommend to anyone that they go into the Marine Corps,” said former Marine corporal Peter Devereaux, who has good reason to believe that his breast cancer is the result of drinking Camp Lejeune’s tainted water. The Marines, he said, “are like a mafia.”

As I was finishing this article, one of the Camp Lejeune activists I’d been speaking to sent me a short, sad email. “So much for our environment,” the brief note said, linking to a Supreme Court ruling that was published that morning, June 9. The case, CTS Corporation v. Waldburger, called into question how long defendants in North Carolina had to sue industry for sickness or death caused by pollution. By ruling for CTS, the polluter, the Supremes indirectly but incontrovertibly complicated the efforts of those seeking compensation at Camp Lejeune. The fight, always hard, suddenly got harder.

Methyl-Ethyl Death

Among those who could never again be charmed again by Camp Lejeune’s bucolic seaside surroundings is Jerry Ensminger, who today lives in nearby White Lake, North Carolina. Ensminger joined the Marines during the Vietnam War, in which his brother had been wounded. After a stint in Okinawa, he was assigned to Camp Lejeune in 1973. He and his wife lived in a housing complex on the base’s northern edge. Their second daughter, Janey, was born in 1976. Photographs show a pretty girl with bangs and cheeks like apples. In one picture, she clenches her teeth and proudly shows off invisible biceps, in what looks like an imitation of her ball-busting drill sergeant of a father.

But then, no more happy pictures. At the age of 6, Janey was diagnosed with leukemia. In the photographs that follow, her hair is cut short. Deposits of fat, from treatments, pad her body. You can see that she knows things no child should have to know. On September 24, 1985, Janey Ensminger died. She was 9.

There were many Janeys at Lejeune, and some didn’t even make it through their first year of life. As Mike Magner writes in A Trust Betrayed, his masterfully thorough book on Camp Lejeune, the base hosted a grim dance of miscarriages, stillbirths and inexplicable postnatal deaths, especially during the 1960s and ’70s: Christopher Townsend, dead at 3½ months from a legion of ailments; Michelle McLaughlin, dead at birth; Eileen Marie Stasiak, dead in the womb. Ricky Gagnoni, alive but a single month, started to bleed from his mouth as his mother fed him and died the next day. So many infants perished at Camp Lejeune that a nearby cemetery had a section mourning parents named “Baby Heaven[1] [2] .”

Finding no other answers, grieving parents turned the loaded gun of guilt upon themselves. “I blamed myself for years,” a mother named Mary Freshwater would later testify. “I hated myself, I hated my body, ’cause I thought I had failed my children.” Standing at a podium, unable or unwilling to hide her tears, she held up the pajamas her infant son was wearing when he died. She had never washed the vomit he’d left on them. She said that after his death, base officials urged her and her husband to try again. They did. And their next son died, too.

“I have two graves out in Onslow Memorial Park,” Freshwater said.

Those with plots at Baby Heaven now know that, as early as 1981, officials at the base were told that the millions of gallons of drinking water consumed by the base’s 100,000 or so residents each day were full of what toxicologists call “methyl-ethyl death,” informal shorthand for a variety of known and suspected carcinogens. But the first batch of groundwater wells was not shut down until the fall of 1984 and the winter of 1985. The base became a Superfund site in 1989, but even today, the full extent of the camp’s contamination is not known. Blame that on poor record-keeping, stonewalling, arrogance or just plain ignorance. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) isn’t even sure how many people have been poisoned by Camp Lejeune’s bad water, though estimates suggest that it was consumed by as many as a million people.

How much the likes of Ensminger deserve in financial compensation for their grief is the most complex question of all: Suffering at once yearns for a dollar amount and resists such crass calculation. Ensminger is one of about 3,500 people involved in litigation against the Department of Defense. They thought the Marine Corps, which proudly professes to leave no man behind, would own up to its mistakes. As they pushed the Marines to reveal what they knew about Lejeune’s drinking water, and when, they figured that the motto Semper Fidelis (“Always Faithful”) was more than just a sales pitch.

Now, they know better.

Kevin Shipp knows better, too. As an agent of the Central Intelligence Agency, he was stationed at Camp Stanley, an Army site right near San Antonio’s heavily polluted Kelly Air Force Base. (During our conversation, Shipp would not reveal exactly where he was stationed or his job there, though other outlets had previously identified both.) Shipp and his family lived at the base, which is believed to be a secret weapons storage facility, for two years starting in June 1999.

Unlike the largely unsuspecting residents of Camp Lejeune, the Shipps realized quickly that something was amiss. One of his sons told The New York Times that “the house that our family was moved into was planted on top of a lot of buried ammunition. One time, me and my little brother dug up a mustard gas shell.” Their house was also teeming with mold, which made them ill. “My children were bleeding from their noses, vomiting, had severe headaches and strange rashes on the exposed areas of their skin,” Shipp later wrote. “My wife became bedridden with headaches so severe, she had to be placed on morphine. … I began to have burning in my lungs…and was losing my short-term memory.”

In 2002, Shipp left the CIA and sued his employer for placing him in a mold-ridden house. The case was eventually dismissed on the basis of the State Secrets Privilege.

When we spoke, Shipp, who now lives in Jacksonville, Florida, described Camp Stanley as a “toxic mess.” Not only is it littered with aging munitions, but its water has been poisoned in a fashion strikingly similar to Camp Lejeune’s.

“Frankly,” Shipp told me, “they don’t care.”

Men With Mastectomy Scars

Camp Lejeune, built in 1941, is 240 square miles in area, making it the largest Marine base east of the Mississippi River, and the second largest in the nation after Camp Pendleton, near San Diego. Situated at the swampy mouth of the New River, it is an ideal training ground for the sorts of amphibious assaults that are the Marines’ favored means of arriving at the war dance. From here, leathernecks shipped out to the Pacific theater of World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The Marines killed in the 1983 terrorist bombings of a barracks in Beirut had also come from Lejeune; a memorial to them sits in a wooded glade at the camp’s edge.

In the decade before Camp Lejeune was built, the chemical industry saw the advent of the “safety solvents” TCE and tetrachloroethylene (PCE). These were chemical cleaning agents of the organochlorine group: TCE was a degreaser for machine parts; PCE was used in dry cleaning.

A military base is rife with machines. This sounds obvious, but it’s quite striking when you see all those tanks and airplanes and amphibious vehicles that seem perfectly poised for battle, even on a humid North Carolina afternoon when overseas wars might as well be waged in another galaxy. Part of that readiness is cleanliness, which your average military mechanic would have achieved, until very recently, by washing grease-covered parts in TCE.

In 2004, a former Marine named Joseph Paliotti decided to clear his conscience. He was on the verge of perishing from cancer, and he suspected that Camp Lejeune had something to do with it. He had spent 16 years working on the base. “We’d come down there, we used to dump it: DDT, cleaning fluid, batteries, transformers, vehicles,” he told his local television station. “I knew sooner or later something was gonna happen.” Several days later, Paliotti died.

The cleaning of clothes might seem like a more innocuous matter, but that’s only because most people don’t have much of a notion of how a dry cleaning enterprise works. You surrender your clothes; they return immaculate. Magic! As it happens, the chemicals that cleanse a shirt are about as carcinogenic as those that cleanse an airplane engine.

One of the places at Camp Lejeune that could care for your uniform was ABC One Hour Cleaners, which sits just a few yards from the edge of the base. The dry cleaners, which started operation in 1964 and ended on-site cleaning service in 2005, did nothing different from what thousands of other dry cleaners did around the United States: It used PCE as a cleaning solvent. Some of the PCE sludge was used to fill potholes, while much of the liquid waste ended up in the ground, just like the TCE used to clean machines across the road, behind the barbed wire.

The TCE and PCE percolated through the sandy soil of Camp Lejeune and into the shallow Castle Hayne aquifer, from which the base drew its water. Also flowing into the soil was benzene from the Hadnot Point fuel farm. A component of gasoline, benzene is an aromatic hydrocarbon. Its name does not mean that it is pleasantly pungent. Instead, the deceptively alluring adjective refers to the strong carbon-hydrogen latticework of the compound. Like other aromatic hydrocarbons, benzene is a carcinogen that readily enters the body.

An Associated Press report found that as “late as spring 1988, the underground tanks at Hadnot Point were leaking about 1,500 gallons of fuel a month—a total of more than 1.1 million gallons, by some estimates.” Eventually, the leaked fuel would form an underground layer 15 feet deep, a carcinogenic band essentially covering the aquifer from which the drinking water was drawn.

Among those who drank that water was Mike Partain, who was born on base. His father was a Marine, as was his grandfather. He lived in the same housing complex where the Ensmingers conceived their daughter Janey. He joined the Navy but was discharged because of a debilitating rash that would overtake his body without explanation. Eventually, Partain ended up in Tallahassee, Florida, where he was a teacher and, later, an insurance adjuster.

Then married with four children, Partain was in good health until the age of 39. (He has since divorced; “my marriage didn’t survive Lejeune,” he told me.) Toxins, like terrorist sleeper cells, are patient. As he would later write for the website of Semper Fi, a documentary about Camp Lejeune, in April 2007 “my wife gave me a hug before bed one night. As she did, her hand came across a curious bump situated above my right nipple. There was no pain, but it felt very odd.” Partain went for tests, which revealed an almost incredible diagnosis: breast cancer.

Male breast cancer is rare enough in the general population, especially for someone like Partain who has no history of the disease in his family. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, only about 7 breast cancer victims out of 1,000 are men. Yet it turned out that many other men who’d lived on Camp Lejeune had developed breast cancer: Partain told me that he knows of 85 victims. Several of these aging men, showing mastectomy scars, posed for a 2011 calendar.

Coincidences do happen, even in cancer epidemiology. What looks like obvious causation to some may be just cruel fate, but the overall infrequency of the disease, combined with its relatively high frequency among the men of Camp Lejeune, as well as the other ailments plaguing those who lived on the base, made clear that there was a connection. “This has all the characteristics of a male breast cancer cluster,” the noted epidemiologist Richard Clapp said at the time. Camp Lejeune is, in fact, now widely believed to be the largest known cluster of the male variant of the disease.

“So Much Audacity”

The Superfund law, passed in 1980, did not apply to federal facilities until 1986. Once it was exposed to litigation, the Department of Defense could no longer dismiss the environmental movement as a mere leftist nuisance. The EPA did better under self-described “environmental president” George H.W. Bush than it had under Ronald Reagan. The Clinton presidency appeared to embolden the regulators, even as the centrist Democrat allowed the Superfund tax on industry to expire in 1995. The presidency of George W. Bush, however, proved a long-sought reprieve for polluters, as the wannabe Texan quickly stocked the EPA with friends of industry.

The attacks of 9/11 proved an especially ripe opportunity for the Pentagon to push back against the oversight implemented in 1986. With the EPA already weakened by the White House and the wounded country in a bellicose mood, the Pentagon asked, in 2003, for a pass on pollution. The Department of Defense figured that Americans were far more afraid of terrorists than polluters. “The manner in which certain environmental laws are being applied is seriously hampering our military training opportunities,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wrote in an April 2003 letter to EPA head Christine Todd Whitman.

Military officials did not anticipate the resistance they would encounter on Capitol Hill. Perhaps the most vociferous critic of the exemptions was Dingell. “Nowhere has a single set of legislative proposals had so much audacity and so little merit,” thundered the aging legislator during one hearing. “I would note that the Defense Department is supposed to defend the nation, not to defile it.”

Despite an industry-friendly White House on its side, the Pentagon failed to earn the exemptions from environmental laws. Just as important, its overreach brought national attention to the then little-known problem of military pollution, with Camp Lejeune coming to serve as an example of what happened when the Department of Defense was left to police itself.

Sullivan, the Pentagon’s chief environmental officer, said that to clean up all of the Pentagon’s pollution would cost American taxpayers $27 billion. Nevertheless, she is upbeat about the challenges before her, noting that the Department of Defense has done all it could to meet new regulations. Its shortcomings, she said, resulted from a widespread ignorance about the danger of certain chemicals, which was hardly restricted to the Pentagon. “We all grew,” she told me, “at the same time.”

Others are skeptical of the Pentagon’s efforts to come clean. One report by the religiously nonpartisan U.S. Government Accountability Office deemed “daunting” the Pentagon’s “task of cleaning up thousands of military bases and other installations across the country.” It concluded that “identifying and investigating these hazards will take decades, and cleanup will cost many billions of dollars.” The GAO has also found that regulators lack the muscle to make the Pentagon clean up its many messes.

“A World Trade Center in Slow Motion”

Today, Camp Lejeune is a tidy base of red-brick buildings and thick groves of pine. Occasionally, one sees vistas of the New River, which opens into a bright blue bowl of a bay. Marines can rent cabins on a beach that recalls untrammeled stretches of Cape Cod. The base is home to a rare variety of woodpecker, as well as the Venus flytrap. The place looks ordinary, even pretty in places, if you can get past the punishing Southern heat. It is like a body whose wounds have healed, though the scars are still visible if you know where to look: the yellow poles of observation wells, empty lots behind barbed wire, groves in which dump sites hide. But most people aren’t looking.

We pass an unexceptional building on the side of the road. Here, the base once stored the toxic pesticide DDT, made infamous by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Later, the same building became a day care center, with kids playing in ground soaked with an incontrovertible poison. I told the environmental officials who led me around the base that I was reminded of something that Ernest Hemingway once wrote: “All things truly wicked start from an innocence.” I don’t think they knew if this was supposed to be condemnation or exculpation. I don’t know, either.

The ignorance argument falls loud and flat when it comes to TCE, which could have been classified as a known carcinogen much earlier than 2011, which was when the EPA finally released its long-awaited determination of the solvent’s manifold dangers. According to a two-part Los Angeles Times series on trichloroethylene, the EPA realized in the 1990s that TCE was “as much as 40 times more likely to cause cancer than [the agency] had previously believed.” Its efforts to classify TCE as a carcinogen were largely hindered by the Pentagon, which produced experts confidently assuring that TCE’s danger was overblown. Those attempts at assuaging concerns failed, but the delay was costly, while the contamination remains vast and the cleanup has been slow. David Ozonoff, an epidemiologist at Boston University, called the nation’s TCE problem “a World Trade Center in slow motion.”

The public affairs and environmental officials who took me around Camp Lejeune were young, informed and sunny in disposition, not quite the clenched-anus Dick Cheney minions one expects of the nefarious military-industrial complex. They told me, proudly, that the water at the base was now probably the cleanest in the nation. One hears a similar refrain about both Woburn, Massachusetts, and Toms River, New Jersey, the infamous cancer clusters where water was also tainted with TCE. What they don’t say is that today’s pristine water has been paid for by past generations, many times over.

Yet several dozen sites remain, each benzene plume, munitions dump and TCE-laden lot its own private battlefield. It will be decades before the base is fully clean, though past neglect appears to have been replaced by penitent diligence. Solar thermal panels have already been installed on 2,000 homes, improbably making Camp Lejeune one of the largest residential communities in the nation to use solar energy. Even more improbable, earlier this year Camp Lejeune won an environmental restoration award from the Pentagon, beating out bases across the various services. Of course, that’s partly because there was so much here to restore.

“They’re Slick”

In 2012, advocates like Jerry Ensminger and Mike Partain won a victory when President Barack Obama signed the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act, which is supposed to ensure that those sickened by Lejeune water get medical treatment from the Department of Veteran Affairs. The law is also known as the Janey Ensminger Act, a nod to the father who turned his howling grief into righteous anger. In the Oval Office, Ensminger stood next to the president and looked over his shoulder, as if to make sure the bill was properly signed.

Ensminger said working on Camp Lejeune has been like “pulling teeth.” He wasn’t exaggerating all that much. Earlier this spring, Obama’s Department of Justice filed an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court in CTS Corporation v. Waldburger, in which 25 Asheville, North Carolina, residents were suing an electronic firm for contaminating their well water. The brief was in favor the polluter, not the alleged victims. That seemed to put the administration at odds with its position on the treatment of victims of toxic exposure.

When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of CTS in June, it essentially said that North Carolina’s 10-year statute of repose trumps the Superfund law’s statute of limitations. A statute of repose is much friendlier to business, while a statute of limitations favors those, like Ensminger, who might want to sue a potential polluter, since it gives them much more time to discover the result of their illness (which could take far more than a single decade to manifest). Some observers noted that the Supreme Court ruling could make it difficult for the Camp Lejeune lawsuits to proceed.

“It doesn’t matter,” Ensminger said a couple of days before the Supreme Court decision. “I’m not quitting.” In the hours after the ruling, he and his lawyers quickly identified a seeming loophole in the majority opinion that they were eager to exploit, while North Carolina legislators rushed to pass legislation that would preserve the legal claims of both CTS and Camp Lejeune victims. (North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed the bill in late June.)

“You gotta watch these people like a hawk, man,” Ensminger told me of the Marines. “They’re slick.” The armed forces took his daughter. They took so many other lives, too, without firing a single shot.

 

 

1 in 10 Americans live within 10 miles of a contaminated military site

Marine Corps Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger was a devoted Marine for nearly twenty-five years…

As a drill instructor he lived and breathed the “Corps” and was responsible for indoctrinating thousands of new recruits with its motto Semper Fidelis or “Always Faithful.”

When Jerry’s nine-year old daughter Janey died of a rare type of leukemia, his world collapsed.  As a grief-stricken father, he struggled for years to make sense of what happened.  His search for answers led to the shocking discovery of a Marine Corps cover-up of one of the largest water contamination incidents in U.S. history.

Semper Fi: Always Faithful follows Jerry’s mission to expose the Marine Corps and force them to live up to their motto to the thousands of soldiers and their families exposed to toxic chemicals.  His fight reveals a grave injustice at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune and a looming environmental crisis at military sites across the country.

http://semperfialwaysfaithful.com/

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This study is important because it raises questions about drinking water standards. This study was referenced in Living Downstream by Sandra Steingraber

The exhaled breath of people who had recently showered contained elevated levels of volatile organic compounds. In fact, a ten-minute shower or a thirty minute bath contributed to a greater internal dose of these volatile compounds than drinking half a gallon of tap water. Showering in an enclosed stall appears to be contribute to the greatest dose, probably because of the inhalation of steam.

The particular route of exposure profoundly affects the biological course of the contaminant within the body. The water that we drink and use in cooking passes through the liver first and is metabolized before entering the bloodstream. A dose received from bathing is dispersed to many different organs before it reaches the liver. The relative hazards of each pathway depend on the biological activity of the contaminant and its metabolic breakdown product, as well as on the relative sensitivity of the various tissues exposed along the way.

The bathing studies raise additional questions about drinking water standards. Once again, we see how narrow the purview of these regulations is. The environmental scientists Clifford Weisel and Wan-Kuen Jo, the authors of the 1996 study, pointedly explained:

Traditional approaches for evaluating exposure to and adverse health effects from contaminants in tap water have assumed that ingestion is the major route of exposure….Furthermore, the ingestion of two liters of water has been used to estimate the health risk associated with waterborne chemical contaminants and the establishment of drinking water standards without quantifying the doses received from other routes. This practice can lead to an underestimation of the potential health risk.

page 198

Living Downstream by Sandra Steingraber

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