From Huffington Post:

The U.S. Navy is asking government investigators to suppress information concerning the toxic water scandal at the Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune, according to a letter obtained Thursday by The Huffington Post.

The letter, signed by Maj. Gen. J.A. Kessler of the Marine Corps and dated Jan. 5, 2012, asks the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry to withhold from a forthcoming report details about the whereabouts of water lines, wells, treatment plants and storage tanks on the North Carolina military base — in the name of national security.

“The Marine Corps understands the need to share information with the scientific community,” writes Kessler, the Marines’ assistant deputy commandant for installations and logistics. “Prudence requires, however, that information sharing be within the rubric of responsible force protection.”

Government watchdogs and environmental advocates said they interpret the letter as further evidence of a Navy effort to evade culpability for what many call the worst and largest drinking water contamination in U.S. history.

Congress assigned the disease registry to trace when, where and at what levels Camp Lejeune’s drinking water was tainted with toxic industrial chemicals from the late-1950s to the 1980s. The research is a prerequisite for a series of health studies exploring links between chemical exposures and what appears to be increased levels of disease among former Camp Lejeune residents, including male breast cancer and childhood leukemia.

As part of its research, the disease registry must map the entire water system on the base, past and present. And for the findings to be credible, the registry must release all of the information, so other scientists can review or replicate the results. The Navy’s pressure could stymie that effort.

“This is exactly what happens when you have one federal agency investigating another,” said retired Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger, the central character of a new documentary, “Semper Fi: Always Faithful,” which tells the Camp Lejeune contamination story.

Ensminger added that the information the Navy seeks to suppress has been in the public domain for decades, including in print materials distributed by the Marines. “Anyone with Google Earth can zoom in on Camp Lejeune and see those red and white checkered tanks popping out of the housing areas,” said Ensminger, who lost his 9-year-old daughter Janey to a rare type of leukemia. Janey was conceived at Camp Lejeune.

Ensminger and other advocates said they are concerned that the letter represents another maneuver by the Navy to cover up its actions and inactions, and to delay justice for the estimated 1 million Marines and family members who were exposed to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune over 30-odd years.

As the documentary explains, base officials received multiple warnings from 1980 to 1984 that tests of the drinking water showed toxic chemicals including the solvents trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE), and the fuel additive benzene. Yet the first contaminated well wasn’t closed until late-1984, when the co-owner of an outside lab that had conducted three of those tests notified North Carolina environmental officials. By the end of 1985, 10 more contaminated wells had been closed.

The Marine Corps denies any delay or wrongdoing. TCE, a metal degreaser, and PCE, a dry-cleaning solvent, were unregulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act when they were discovered in water, Capt. Kendra N. Hardesty, a Marine Corps spokeswoman, told HuffPost in an email.

“The test results varied between drinking water samples collected at different times,” Hardesty added. “Base officials were confused and unable to immediately identify the source of the chemicals.”

Legislation is currently pending in the House and Senate that seeks to provide healthcare to Camp Lejeune residents suffering as a result of exposure to the contaminated drinking water. The Senate bill passed the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs over the summer and awaits further action. Legislators are on the hunt for offsets to cover its $340 million price. The House version of the bill, named after Janey Ensminger, has yet to move out of committee.

For Richard Clapp, the Camp Lejeune controversy triggers a bit of deja vu. Decades ago, the cancer expert at the Boston University School of Public Health helped link well water contaminated with TCE and PCE to an unusual number of childhood leukemia cases in Woburn, Mass. — a battle that became the basis of the book and movie, “A Civil Action.”

He recalled his first thought when those same two chemicals “popped up” in the Camp Lejeune water: “Here we go again.”

More.

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