It would seem the United States government should care about its troops’ wellbeing, at least, seeing as they are the ones who are responsible for defending the country. But, apparently not.
Thousands of United States military veterans, lawmakers and human rights activists are pushing the Trump administration to release a report on contaminated water on U.S. military bases after current and former military members and their families became grievously ill while stationed in bases.
Peggy Price, a former cryptologic signals intelligence analyst stationed at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, said she and her children experienced a range of horrific medical condition during her 30 years service. Price was diagnosed with a brain tumor, had her gallbladder removed, had an open-heart surgery, ruptured her appendix and got skin cancer and breast cancer while she worked at the base. Her oldest child, who was born at Camp Lejeune, was diagnosed with an adult form of cancer at age 13 while her two younger children went on to have huge ovarian cysts and gynecological issues. Her youngest child has asthma, chronic hearing loss and is autistic.
It has been over three decades since the army detected water contamination at Lejeune. In the subsequent years, news media highlighted dry-cleaning chemicals that leached into the groundwater and possibly caused birth defects in children. Military closed those wells in 1985. Then, as early as 1990s, the EPA and the Department of Defense found the compound perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) — usually found in waterproof clothing and nonstick crockery — was possibly toxic but is currently still being used in bases.
Also, throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the DOD kept using a firefighting foam compound that contained PFAS and contaminated the water supply that thousands of U.S. veterans drank. The Defense Department is now replacing it with slightly altered chemical compounds that are still risky.
This year in March, the Defense Department told Congress the water at 401 military camps around the U.S. and the world has been contaminated by PFAS. Some potential symptoms of PFAS poisoning include development delays in fetuses and children, increased cholesterol, changes to the immune system and liver enzymes, decreased fertility, increased uric acid levels and kidney, testicular and prostate cancer.
Earlier this year, the Department of Health and Human Services blocked a report that was set to show even lower levels of safe contamination, from being released. A White House aide wrote in an email the report would have created a “potential public relations nightmare” for the Trump administration. EPA head Scott Pruitt said they do not have authority to release it, sparking outrage among Democrats over the lack of transparency.
Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger, whose daughter was conceived at Camp Lejeune and died when she was just 9 after she was diagnosed with leukemia, said they deserve some accountability. He also called the Defense Department “our nation’s greatest polluters” and said it was “using our country’s youth and people’s loved ones like guinea pigs.”
“Everyone hears that you serve and says, ‘Thank you for your service,’ but there’s more than the lip service of, ‘Thank you for your service,’” said Price. “The silent killers of military and veterans are the water and ground contamination. People don’t know, so they don’t speak up — and it just continues because it can continue. If no one knows, they can just keep doing what they’re doing. That report needs to be released.”
Banner/Thumbnail Credits: Reuters