By Dave Bedworth
On 16th September Congressman Brad Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight held a hearing about Camp Lejeune water contamination. A live webcast was available and I watched most of the transmission in real time. The press releases on what occurred are very much a matter of record. What I want to share are my personal impressions and observations which I will categorize into the Good, the Bad and the Ugly (with appropriate apologies to Sergio Leone).
– The superb testimony by Mike Partain (a male breast cancer survivor) whose detailed timeline of events is the single most accurate record of events. Mike has spent countless hours researching and checking his timeline and it should be used by all as the Rosetta Stone for contamination at Camp Lejeune. Sadly, Mike’s thorough, accurate and well-documented research also conflicts dramatically with the government’s account of events. Marine Corps leadership remains blind and deaf to the truth to the detriment of the Corps and their “Marine family”.
– The testimony of Dr. Richard Clapp who stated that “the degree of contamination of drinking water at Camp Lejeune in the years between 1957 and 1985 is the highest I have observed in my career as an environmental epidemiologist.”– The testimony of veteran Jim Watters who stated that “ . . . It is my firm belief that the USMC and Department of the Navy leadership have abandoned and betrayed their wounded from Camp Lejeune, including women and children, and left them to suffer and die!”
– Testimony of Mr. Thomas Pamperin of the Veterans Administration. Mr. Pamperin indicated that there are 200 claims for service-connected disability associated with Camp Lejeune. Now we know that there are 163,000 registered ill on the government registry of veterans and family members who have been made ill as a result of exposure to contamination at Camp Lejeune. Now if we assume that 25% (40,000) of the registered ill are veterans then Mr. Pamperin would have Congress and the American public believe that only one in 200 registered ill veterans have applied for service-connected disability. Once again, the Veterans Administration has failed to rise to the occasion and probably has no idea how many veterans have submitted claims associated with Camp Lejeune.
– In further testimony Mr. Pamperin mentioned that the Veterans Administration is still using the discredited National Research Council report on Camp Lejeune. Mr. Pamperin stated that “ . . . In response to the NRC’s study, VA assembled a Task Force . . . to determine whether the NRC provided a sufficient scientific basis for determining whether the population of Camp Lejeune has, in fact, suffered adverse health effects as a result of exposure to contaminants in the water supply. The Task Force is continuing its work and will submit its findings to the Secretary for consideration.” Sorry Mr. Pamperin – that dog won’t hunt with what we now know about the flawed NRC report.
– The testimony of Major General Payne who stated “ . . . Currently, scientific studies haven’t determined reliably whether diseases and disorders experienced by former residents and workers at Camp Lejeune are associated with their exposure to contaminants in the water supply because of data shortcomings and methodological limitations.” Another dog that won’t hunt General. Encyclopedic Epidemiological data is abundant on the links between contamination exposure and illnesses. In the hearing you heard Dr. Clapp state that the TCE in the Camp Lejeune well water was five times that of Woburn, Massachusetts when a childhood leukemia cluster was identified in that town.
163,000 veterans and family members continue to fight an array of illnesses that were caused by exposure to contamination at Camp Lejeune. To date very few have received any help from the entity responsible for that exposure. Our veterans and family members, despite all of the help from Congress, still face the daily battle of illness, treatment and denial from the government who should be rushing forward to help. If the polluter would have been a large chemical company, compensation and lawsuits would have already been forthcoming and the medical and financial help for those made ill would be in place. For example, after the recent oil spill in the Gulf, BP (under pressure from the US Government) has set aside Twenty Billion dollars for compensation and is already processing claims for same.
In conclusion I would like to leave you with the words of our stalwart veteran Jim Watters:
“ . . . I was wounded in combat while walking point for my infantry company on September 6, 1970. When I was wounded, my commanding officer, Captain Allen G. Vitters ran and crawled through enemy fire to drag me to safety. That is what a leader does.”
Watters added, “I don’t know about the USMC but in the U.S. Army, abandoning the wounded is the equivalent of cowardice under fire!”