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Cleanup at NC Marine Base Drinking Wells After 30 Years Since Closing

Update Date: May 18, 2013 02:13 PM EDT

Over the span of a 170 square mile base, there are hoses, tanks labeled "NON-POTABLE WATER," and over a decade-old ABC cleaners. This site, with certain areas that appear to be fairly abandoned, was known as the Hadnot Point fuel marine, the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune's main fuel depot that was opened over three decades ago. This base camp was forced to shut down in the 1980s after the water source became so contaminated that one could actually see the 15 feet thick layer of gasoline that floated on top of it. Now, after nearly 30 years, the site is finally attempting to finish up with the cleaning of what is still considered the worst case of drinking water pollution in American history.

Within this large span of ground, there existed over 600 polluted areas with about five-dozen left to be examined. A part of the effort in cleaning up the areas involves the use of a "fluid vapor recovery" truck. Bob Lowder, the head of environmental quality for the base, described the function of the truck during one of his tours.

"He's skimming that contaminate out of that well, into this tank. We'll take that off for recondition or disposal, as appropriate." Lowder explained. "We probably have the most aggressive sampling regime for our drinking water than anybody else in the nation. Maybe in the world." The water at the base is checked and tested monthly to protect marine families that have been stationed at this base.

The marine base managed to get so contaminated after years of dumping carcinogenic solvents into the Lejeume water table. These pollutants and dangerous toxins, such as pesticides and toxic degreasers, could be found in almost every drinking well. According to history, the worst stage of contamination happened at the peak of the Cold War. The contamination is believed to have started in 1941 when these toxic chemicals either leaked or were purposely dumped into the ground of the base camp.

Cleanup started in the mid-1980s and is finally now in the midst of finishing. Some positive turnovers include changing a building that was previously full of the toxic insecticide DDT into a day care and nursery. Hopefully, as the cleaning process continues, America will see the base turned back into some place livable. 

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