The Camp Lejeune incident was one of the worst ecological disasters in US history. Not only did it kill wildlife, but it also harmed and caused deaths to thousands in the process. Due to the large population of Native Americans who live in this area, it’s hard to believe the long clean-up time isn’t lined with racial negativity.
If the contamination happened in New York we wouldn’t have the same lagged response. So what happened in Camp Lejeune and how was the water cleaned? Let us explain.
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What Happened In Camp Lejeune?
The issue was first formally noted in 1982. The Marine Corps realized that volatile organic compounds (known as VOCs) were being dumped into Camp Lejeune’s water supply.
It took 3 more years of campaigning for the contaminated waterways to be shut down. However, after an investigation, the length of contamination was much longer than expected. The ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) found evidence that the contamination started as early as the 1950s.
Only in 2022 has a new act been created to allow victims of contaminated water to apply for a lawsuit. If you were affected by this event click here for support in creating a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit.
The Long Clean-Up Process
Although the contamination was first identified in 1982, the attempts to clean the water didn’t begin until 1992 – a full decade later.
It was the U.S Navy’s job to investigate the environmental damage and create a remedy for the area. This remedy had to be agreed on by the public as well as regulating bodies. However, none of these processes began until the 90s.
The First Phase
In the first phase of cleaning, the Navy removed the contaminated soil, storage tanks, batteries, and waste liquids from the area.
Once all of the physical and obvious signs of contamination were removed, they used groundwater treatment which turned the destructive chemicals into functional soil again. This first phase took 9 years.
The Second Phase
In 2001, it was clear that the current steps to treat the area weren’t working as effectively as they thought. The Navy continued on their mission but sectioned off a portion of the contaminated area to test out a new treatment. This one uses electrical resistance heating to speed up the process.
The Navy has noted that 48,000 pounds of volatile organic compounds were removed in this pilot study. With such a powerful progression, other areas were allowed to use the same treatment.
Now the Navy was using groundwater monitoring, institutional controls, and oxidants to break down the contaminations.
To help protect the progress, the Navy refused non-industrial land use in the areas they were removing the toxins from.
This continued until 2009.
The Third Phase
In 2010, the Navy introduced three more actions, however, these were not “time critical” which means they didn’t need to achieve them with any urgency. The job was to create a multi-layer cap that would produce an impermeable layer.
The layer was designed to stop the contaminated soil from expanding further into Camp Lejeune or advancing into nearby locations.
This project took 5 years to complete.
The Fourth Phase
The last method to treat Camp Lejeune water started in 2016. Here the Navy created a borrow pit. This pit was designed to maintain a surface level of clearance. In 2019 the remedy was completed.
Now, these areas in Camp Lejeune are considered undeveloped property with a surface dump. The government decided that no further action was needed as the groundwater and soil were no longer producing “unacceptable” risks to the environment or people.
This means that the groundwater and soil are still contaminated, but the government believes the level of contamination is safe or acceptable.
The Current State Of The Site
Every 5 years the sight will be reviewed to make sure that the level of contamination is still considered safe. The first review was in 2020, and it found that the cleanup actions are still producing a safe level of protection.
If you drink the tap water in Camp Lejeune you will be drinking water that meets or even exceeds the government standards. If you want to learn more about compensation for water contamination, you can click on the link.
However many people still report signs of contamination such as gastrointestinal problems, stomach cramps, dehydration, and vomiting.
Camp Lejeune was mainly cleaned up using water treatments, soil removals, and bio-treatment cells to eat away at the contaminated soil.
The government believes that the water is now safe, but people in the area are still experiencing symptoms of contamination.