Federal health investigators now say Marine families who lived at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville over three decades drank water contaminated with toxins as much as 40 times higher than today's safety standard. The government disclosed those results Tuesday, the same day that some families testified before a Congressional panel in Washington D.C. about cancers and other illnesses they blame on drinking tainted tap water at the base.
One of those testifying before the House Energy and Commerce panel was an Onslow County man, Jerry Ensminger. He was based at Lejeune and says contaminated tap water on the base in the 1980s is responsible for the death of his daughter. Janey died of leukemia in 1985, at the age of 9. Ensminger and others have been relentless in their fight to get the government to take action and to make sure all those who might have been at risk from the water are notified. Tuesday, Ensminger told the panel about the day his daughter died. Ensminger said, "I started crying and I hadn't cried in front of Janey before that time because she was pulling her strength from me. And I had to be strong for her. When I had to cry I went somewhere else. But that day, I started crying. And she looked up at me, and she had pneumonia that bad she could barely talk, and she said stop it. And I said stop what? She said stop crying daddy, I love you. And that was her last words to me. She went into a coma, and 35 minutes later, she took her last breath."
Tuesday's hearing was prompted in part by new scrutiny from members of Congress outraged over the government's treatment of sick veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and elsewhere. At least 850 former residents of Camp Lejeune have filed administrative claims seeking nearly four billion dollars in compensation for exposure to the toxic water.