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Camp Pendleton’s Water Supply Is Finally Drinkable. Hundreds Of Other Sites Aren’t As Lucky
Just months after federal inspectors found dead rats and rotting frogs in the reservoir system at Camp Pendleton in California, the Marine Corps says the base’s water supply is officially adequate for human consumption.
After signing a federal consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency to address the horrifying water contamination detailed by devastating state and EPA reports in September, base officials now claim that not only is Pendleton water safe to consume, but service members were never in danger despite the “rats rotting on a reservoir gate, a desiccated frog clinging to a reservoir ladder and another rodent carcass floating in treated water” observed during inspections back in June.
“[Chlorine levels] were all at a level that would kill anything there,” John Simpson, the director of the Camp Pendleton Water Resources Department, told the San Diego Union-Tribune on Oct. 1.
But Camp Pendleton is just one of hundreds of bases under investigation by state and federal authorities for potentially hazardous water contamination — a problem experts say will affect service members and their families stationed there for generations.
As of 2016, the Department of Defense and the EPA were testing 664 closed and operational military facilities in the U.S. for water contamination. Some sites are apparently so toxic that they have been prioritized for cleanup under the EPA’s “superfund sites” list. Of the 174 federal facilities on the EPA’s National Priorities List — the department’s list of hazardous waste locations that require cleanup — 140 fall under the Pentagon’s purview, an EPA spokesperson told Task & Purpose, although “the contaminants and contaminated media (soil, groundwater, surface water, etc.) vary by site as do the types of investigation and remediation.”
That many bases are slowly poisoning their service members has been extensively documented. A Sept. 26 report by ProPublica revealed that the military is one of the country’s biggest polluters: At one point, the Department of Defense alone maintained around 39,000 toxic sites out of the nearly 300,000 nationwide — more than any other U.S. government institution.
Even worse, the Department of Defense has a lot of work to do in the way of clean-up. An in-depth investigation on water contamination on U.S. military bases conducted by Carnegie-Knight News21 found that the Pentagon has dropped $11.5 billion to determine the scope of the problem on closed bases alone as of September 2015; the DoD will likely need to do an additional $3.4 billion worth of work, according to a Government Accountability Office report released in January 2017.
Even though the DoD has shelled out tons of cash to identify the scope of the problem instead of actually addressing it, the federal government still doesn't totally know how bad the problem is. An EPA spokesperson told Task & Purpose that Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS) and Base Realignment and Closure Sites (BRACS) are not included on on the EPA’s National Priorities List because the department is simply not involved in the investigations of or cleanup processes. Even if Pentagon officials were to identify an issue on those sites, it’s up to the EPA to actually address it.
It’s not just animal carcasses that are polluting the water like at Camp Pendleton: At other facilities, the chemicals that seeped into groundwater and reservoirs are from unexploded ordnance, aircraft maintenance materials, and fuel, with some of the contaminants being introduced as far back as the 1950s. Camp Lejeune in North Carolina is one such location. Labeled a superfund site by the EPA, its water is so dirty that CBS anchor Dan Rather once said it is “the worst example of water contamination this country has ever seen.” And some surmise that the drinking water is responsible for spreading carcinogens to residents.
“In the early 1980s contaminants were found in several wells that provided water at Camp Lejeune,” according to the Department of Veterans Affairs claims site. “The contaminants included the volatile organic compounds trichloroethylene (TCE), a metal degreaser, and perchloroethylene (PCE), a dry cleaning agent, and vinyl chloride, as well as benzene, and other compounds. It is estimated that the contaminants were in the water supply from the mid-1950’s until February 1985 when the wells were shut down.”
As a result, anyone who inhabited the base between 1951 and 1897 is eligible for disability compensation for “adult leukemia, aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and Parkinson’s disease.”
While Camp Lejeune may be considered one of the worst sites, there are plenty more like it across the country. Instances of water pollution on military bases are not rare, as former Michigan Congressman John Dingell told Newsweek in 2014, “almost every military site in this country is seriously contaminated.”
Camp Pendleton’s battle to restore potability may be considered a win, but in the military’s war against water contamination, victory is nowhere in sight.
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will return three captured naval ships to Ukraine on Monday and is moving them to a handover location agreed with Kiev, Crimea's border guard service was cited as saying by Russian news agencies on Sunday.
A Reuters reporter in Crimea, which Russian annexed from Ukraine in 2014, earlier on Sunday saw coastguard boats pulling the three vessels through the Kerch Strait toward the Black Sea where they could potentially be handed over to Ukraine.
Nine years after losing both legs in Afghanistan, he's found purpose in family, friends and inspiring others
There's a joke that Joey Jones likes to use when he feels the need to ease the tension in a room or in his own head.
To calm himself down, he uses it to remind himself of the obstacles he's had to overcome. When he faces challenges today — big or small — it brings him back to a time when the stakes were higher.
Jones will feel out a room before using the line. For nearly a decade, Jones, 33, has told his story to thousands of people, given motivational speeches to NFL teams and acted alongside a three-time Academy Award-winning actor.
On Tuesday afternoon, he stood at the front of a classroom at his alma mater, Southeast Whitfield High School in Georgia. The room was crowded with about 30 honor students.
It took about 20 minutes, but Jones started to get more comfortable as the room warmed up to him. A student asked about how he deals with post-traumatic stress disorder.
"I believe in post-traumatic growth," Jones said. "That means you go through tough and difficult situations and on the back end through recovery, you learn strength."
It didn't take long for a central theme to emerge at the funeral of U.S. Marine Pfc. Joseph Livermore, an event attended by hundreds of area residents Friday at Union Cemetery in Bakersfield.
It's a theme that stems from a widespread local belief that the men and women who have served in the nation's armed forces are held in particularly high esteem here in the southern valley.
"In Bakersfield and Kern County, we celebrate our veterans like no place else on Earth," Bakersfield Chief of Police Lyle Martin told the gathering of mourners.
ROCKFORD — Delta Force sniper Sgt. First Class James P. McMahon's face was so badly battered and cut, "he looked like he was wearing a fright mask" as he stood atop a downed Black Hawk helicopter and pulled free the body of a fellow soldier from the wreckage.
That's the first description of McMahon in the book by journalist Mark Bowden called "Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War." It is a detailed account of the horrific Battle of the Black Sea fought in the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, in October 1993. It claimed the lives of 18 elite American soldiers.