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4/19/2008 - ATSDR's summary of the historical drinking water situation at U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, NC

ATSDR's summary of the historical drinking water situation at U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, NC Tarawa Terrace . The Tarawa Terrace water system served the Tarawa Terrace family housing units and Knox Trailer Park. PCE (also known as tetrachloroethylene or perchloroethylene) was measured at the tap in Tarawa Terrace at levels as high as 215 parts per billion (ppb). Since the current drinking water standard ("MCL" or maximum contaminant level) for PCE is 5 ppb, 215 ppb is 43 times the current standard. There is considerable scientific uncertainty concerning what level of PCE can be harmful either to the fetus, the child, or the adult, but the levels of PCE at Tarawa Terrace are among the highest found in any public water system in the U.S. and certainly are of health concern. For adult diseases, the duration of exposure is also an important factor. However, for childhood diseases, including birth defects and childhood cancers, even a very short exposure duration (a few days to a few weeks) at a critical time during pregnancy could be sufficient to cause a birth defect or childhood cancer. At our website, we have a table with the estimated average levels for each month of PCE (as well as TCE or trichloroethylene, DCE or trans-1,2-dichloroethylene, and vinyl chloride) that was at the tap at each home in Tarawa Terrace, based on our modeling of the Tarawa Terrace system: The table provides data from the start of operation of the Tarawa Terrace water treatment plant in 1952 until the plant was closed in 1987. (The estimates in the table are provided in micrograms per liter which is equivalent to parts per billion.) We estimate that PCE exceeded 5 ppb (the current standard) by January 1958. The most contaminated wells were shut down in February 1985. The TCE, DCE, and vinyl chloride in the Tarawa Terrace system were entirely due to degradation (or breakdown) of the PCE in the groundwater over time. TCE, DCE and vinyl chloride were not used in the dry cleaning operation, and there was no other source of contamination to the Tarawa Terrace system except ABC cleaners. The levels of TCE and vinyl chloride that we estimated in the Tarawa Terrace system are not high although they do exceed the current drinking water standards for TCE (5 ppb) and vinyl chloride (2 ppb). We estimated a maximum of 22 ppb for DCE (the MCL is 100 ppb), 7 ppb for TCE, and 12 ppb for vinyl chloride. There is considerable scientific uncertainty concerning whether these levels of TCE, DCE and vinyl chloride are harmful. Hadnot Point The Hadnot Point system served most of the bachelors quarters (i.e., the barracks on mainside), and the family housing units at Hospital Point. Before June 1972, Hadnot Point also served family housing units at Berkeley Manor, Midway Park, and Paradise Point. After June 1972, these units were served by uncontaminated water from the Holcomb Boulevard plant. Watkins Village, built in the late 1970s, was also served with uncontaminated drinking water by the Holcomb Boulevard plant. Currently we are modeling the Hadnot Point water system. We intend to produce a similar table for this water system by the middle of next year. It will take this long because the situation at Hadnot Point is much more complex than was the case at Tarawa Terrace. At Tarawa Terrace, there was one source of contamination, ABC Cleaners, and one major contaminant, PCE (used in the dry cleaning process). On the other hand, at Hadnot Point, there were several sources of contamination (up to 16 toxic waste sites), several different major contaminants (e.g., TCE, PCE, DCE, benzene), and many more drinking water wells than Tarawa Terrace. The maximum level of TCE detected in the Hadnot Point drinking water (i.e., from a tap sample) was measured at 1,400 ppb. That is the highest level of TCE I have ever seen in a tap sample in a public water system anywhere in the U.S.. For comparison, the maximum level of TCE measured in the contaminated public wells in Woburn MA was 267 ppb. The maximum level of DCE measured in the Hadnot Point drinking water (from a tap sample), 407 ppb, is also the highest I have ever seen in a public water system in the U.S. Obviously, these are contaminant levels of grave health concern. The Hadnot Point system started operation in the 1940s. Once the modeling of this system is completed, we will be able to estimate when the levels of contaminants in the system first exceeded their MCLs. The most contaminated wells were shut down by February 1985. Frank J. Bove, Sc.D Senior Epidemiologist Division of Health Studies Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)/CDC Mailstop F-57 4770 Buford Highway NE Atlanta, GA 30341-3717


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