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Toxins Found in N.C. Drinking Water Dates Back to 1948

Update Date: Mar 15, 2013 02:48 PM EDT

New research suggests that North Carolina's water contamination, a subject to widespread controversy, might have begun in 1948 and not 1953. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry stated that it would release a new report clarifying the contamination date of the water from Camp Lejeune military base. The former residents and the Marine Corps have previously debated over the severity of the toxins in the drinking water and hopefully the new results will benefit some of the parties involved in this long-term dispute.

Back in 1953, researchers discovered an exceeding large amount of TCE, which is a dangerous industrial solvent that causes cancers, in the drinking water suggesting that the contamination started that same year. However, the new studies show that the contamination, which was caused by fuel leaks and other sources resulting from pollution places the date back five years. These leakages seeped into the wells and exposed roughly one million people to carcinogens during that time.

"Basically, it's vindication and confirmation for what I've been saying for nearly 16 years. The truth is finally coming out," expressed Jerry Ensminger, a retired Marine Master Sergeant. Although the true date might not change anything today, the information will change Ensminger's life. He believed that the toxic waters caused the death of his leukemia-ridden nine-year-old daughter during that time. Other marines and relatives of marines have stated that the contamination contributed to their development of different cancers, ranging from breast to liver cancer as well.

The new report will display the levels of contamination at the Hadnot Point, which was the marked residential areas where the contaminated drinking water was and Holcomb Boulevard water plants. Contamination included TCE, PCE, vinyl chloride, and benzene, which are all known carcinogens. The previous report stated that the highest level of TCE occurred in November 1983 at Hadnot. The level was 783 parts per billion. The highest level found in drinking water specifically was 5 ppb in 1989. That number is roughly 157 times larger than the highest level of TCE allowed today.

These numbers and the earlier contamination date can provide researchers with more information regarding the effects of the contamination and these chemicals on people. There are currently four studies that are observing the birth defects, childhood cancer, male breast cancer, and mortality rates of the people involved with this contamination. Until these studies are released, nothing more can be known regarding the effects of the earlier date of contamination. 

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