Unanswered Questions

It is unclear whether federal investigators are still probing for illegal or unethical conduct in the never-ending case of Camp Lejeune’s toxic drinking water. There are plenty of places they could look, though, including a number of apparent improprieties described in A Trust Betrayed.

There were the indications that Navy officials were allowed to review and edit the first Public Health Assessment of the base’s pollution before it was released in the 1990s by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Polluters are not normally part of the process of assessing the damage they have done to health and the environment, and the Navy’s opportunity to suggest changes in the PHA could help explain why the document was later found to be so flawed it needed significant revisions; a final assessment still has not been released by the ATSDR.

There were the suggestions that an expert panel appointed by the National Academy of Sciences was wined and dined at the base as it began studying the problems caused by Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water. The panel’s report, which concluded that illnesses could not be directly linked to the pollution, was later widely discredited.

There were the redactions the Navy was allowed to make in an ATSDR water-modeling study that made it impossible for the research to be independently verified. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina asked the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate, but no report has been released.

There is also evidence that federal officials have overlooked another possible pathway of exposure to toxic chemicals at the base: vapors seeping from polluted underground sites into the air inside buildings. More information about that significant problem will be posted here later.

On top of all those issues is the fact that the Marine Corps has repeatedly stonewalled the efforts of investigators to study the contamination problems at Camp Lejeune. The Tampa Bay Times reported last year that the Marines withheld more than 40,000 documents from the ATSDR until July 2013, nearly three full decades after the contamination was publicly disclosed in 1985.

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