Public health assessment for Camp Lejeune Drinking Water Public Health Assessment : U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina
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Public health assessment for Camp Lejeune Drinking Water Public Health Assessment : U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina

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    Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune (MCB Camp Lejeune) is in Onslow County, North Carolina, southeast of Jacksonville and about 70 miles northeast of Wilmington, North Carolina. The base covers an area in southeastern North Carolina’s Coastal Plain: approximately 151,000 acres (233 square miles), with 14 miles of beach on the Atlantic Ocean. Camp Lejeune began operations in late 1941 (Watson 1995). The military base has been densely populated throughout its history, with approximately 43,000 active duty military personnel and 51,000 dependents as current occupants.

    Over the years, contaminants from unlined landfills and leaking, aboveground and underground storage tanks migrated into soil and groundwater at locations across MCB Camp Lejeune. In 1983, MCB Camp Lejeune conducted an initial assessment of the potentially contaminated areas. Since that time, base-wide environmental investigations have been ongoing and continue under MCB Camp Lejeune’s Installation Restoration Program. Because of proven environmental contamination, on October 4, 1989, USEPA added Camp Lejeune to its National Priorities List. Under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, as amended, (CERCLA), commonly known as the Superfund Law, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) was then required to conduct a public health assessment of the MCB Camp Lejeune site.

    ATSDR’s 1997 public health assessment found that people had been exposed to contaminants of concern in the MCB Camp Lejeune drinking water. ATSDR declared those past exposures a public health hazard, and ATSDR maintains that position today. Since the 1997 PHA, additional scientific information has expanded the knowledge base related to exposures to contaminants of concern in drinking water at MCB Camp Lejeune. This public health assessment will use this new information to evaluate these exposures, particularly the findings from ATSDR’s historical reconstruction modeling efforts.

    As of 2015, MCB Camp Lejeune’s eight water-distribution systems had supplied or currently supply drinking water to base family housing and other facilities (Figures 1 and 2). Three of the eight distribution systems were contaminated and therefore were evaluated in this public health assessment: Tarawa Terrace, Hadnot Point, and Holcomb Boulevard. The Hadnot Point and Tarawa Terrace water-distribution systems operate independently of each other and were contaminated from different sources. Trichloroethylene (TCE), vinyl chloride (VC), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), and refined petroleum products such as benzene were most of the groundwater contaminants in the Hadnot Point Water Treatment Plant service area. Except for intermittent supply by contaminated Hadnot Point water between 1972 and 1985, groundwater in the Holcomb Boulevard WTP service area remained largely uncontaminated. Researchers have identified historical base operations and disposal practices at MCB Camp Lejeune as responsible for contamination of groundwater and drinking water supplies in the Hadnot Point-Holcomb Boulevard study area (Faye et al. 2010, 2012b). PCE and its degradation products [TCE, trans-1,2-dichloroethylene (trans- 1,2-DCE), and VC] were the contaminants found in the Tarawa Terrace drinking water. ABC One-Hour Cleaners, an off-site drycleaner, was the source of the contaminants found in the Tarawa Terrace Water Treatment Plant (Shiver 1985).

    Because each water treatment system had many more wells than were necessary to supply water on any given day, operators rotated wells in and out of service. Thus, water from contaminated and uncontaminated wells mixed at WTPs before delivery to housing areas and other base facilities. As a result, contamination levels in the drinking water systems varied depending on the number, amount, and specific wells used at a particular time. By February 1985, MCB Camp Lejeune had removed from service the most highly contaminated wells in the Hadnot Point and Tarawa Terrace systems.


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