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Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune is a United States military training facility in North Carolinamarker. The base's of beaches make it a major area for amphibious assault training, and its location between two deep-water ports (Wilmingtonmarker and Morehead Citymarker) allows for fast deployments.

The main base is supplemented by five satellite facilities: Marine Corps Air Station New Rivermarker, Camp Geigermarker, Stone Bay, Courthouse Bay, Camp Johnson, and the latest addition to the facility, the Greater Sandy Run Training Areamarker.

As many as 500,000 people may have been exposed to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune over a period of 30 years. Although no official studies have definitively connected the contamination with illness, former residents of Camp Lejeune suffer from a high rate of cancer and other diseases.

Resident commands



History

Marine motor detachment, New River Barracks, 1942




In April 1941, construction was approved on an tract in Onslow County, North Carolinamarker. On May 1 of that year, Lt. Col. William P. T. Hill began construction on Marine Barracks New River. The first base headquarters was in a summer cottage on Montford Point, and then moved to Hadnot Point in 1942. Later that year it was renamed in honor of the 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps, John A. Lejeune (pronounced luh-jern).

One of the satellite facilities of Camp Lejeune served for a while as a third boot camp for the Marines, in addition to Parris Islandmarker and San Diegomarker. That facility, Montford Point, was established after Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802. Between 1942 and 1949, a brief era of segregated training for black Marines, the camp at Montford Point trained 20,000 African-Americans. After the military was ordered to fully integrate, Montford Point was renamed Camp Gilbert H. Johnson and became the home of the Marine Corps Combat Service Support Schools.

In 1982, Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were found to be in Camp Lejeune's drinking water supply. VOC contamination of groundwater can cause birth defects and other ill health effects in pregnant and nursing mothers. This information was not made public for nearly two decades when the government attempted to identify those who may have been exposed.

Today MCB Camp Lejeune boasts of beach capable of supporting amphibious operations. There are 78 live-fire ranges, 98 maneuver areas, 34 gun positions, 540 tactical landing zones and a state-of-the-art Military Operations in Urban Terrain training facility. Military forces from around the world come to MCB Camp Lejeune on a regular basis for bilateral and NATOmarker-sponsored exercises.

Pollution

From at least 1957 through 1987, Marines and their families at Lejeune drank and bathed in water contaminated with toxins at concentrations up to 240-3400 times permitted by safety standards, and at least 850 former residents filed claims for nearly $4 billion from the military. The main chemicals involved were trichloroethylene (TCE), a degreaser, perchloroethylene (PCE), a dry cleaning solvent, and benzene; however, more than 70 chemicals have been identified as contaminants at Lejeune.

A 1974 base order required safe disposal of solvents and warned that improper handling could cause drinking water contamination. Yet solvents were dumped or buried near base wells for years.The base's wells were shut off in the mid-1980s, but were placed back online in violation of the law. An advocacy group called The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten was created to inform possible victims of the contamination at Lejeune. The group's website includes an introduction with some basic information about the contamination at Lejeune, including that many health problems various types of cancer, leukemia, miscarriages and birth defects, have been noted in people who drank the contaminated water. According to the site, numerous base housing areas were affected by the contamination, including Tarawa Terrace, Midway Park, Berkeley Manor, Paradise Point, Hadnot Point, Hospital Point, and Watkins Village.

In 2007, Jerry Ensminger, a retired Marine master sergeant, found a document dated 1981 that described a radioactive dump site near a rifle range at the camp. According to the report, the waste was laced with strontium-90, an isotope known to cause cancer and leukemia. According to Camp Lejeune's installation restoration program manager, base officials learned in 2004 about the 1981 document. Ensminger served in the Marine Corps for 24 and a half years, and lived for part of that time at Camp Lejeune. In 1985 his 9-year-old daughter, Janey, died of cancer.

On July 6, 2009, Laura Jones filed suit against the US government over the contaminated water at the base. Jones previously lived at the base where her husband, a Marine, was stationed. Jones has lymphoma and now lives in Iowa.

Twenty former residents of Camp Lejeune—all men who lived there during the 1960s and the 1980s—have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Due to the relatively low rate of male breast cancer in the United States, pollution at Camp Lejeune is presumed to be a major contributor to these illnesses.

In April 2009, the United States Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry withdrew a 1997 public health assessment at Camp Lejeune that denied any connection between the toxins and illness.

Marine Corps Brig

The military prison at Camp Lejeune has been in operation since 1968 and currently has a maximum capacity of 280 inmates who are incarcerated between 30 and 90 days.

The Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) recommended in 2005 that the brig be closed, and the Secretary of Defense has to implement the commission's recommendations at the latest on September 15, 2011. A new brig is scheduled to be built in Chesapeake, Virginiamarker. Instead, a small detention facility will be built at Camp Lejeune to hold detainees awaiting court martial.

References

This article incorporates text in the public domain from the United States Marine Corps.


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