U.S. Marine Corps veteran Robert Hammond near his home in Santa Ana, Calif., on Dec. 11, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
“I was passing blood and had part of my intestines getting pushed out of me,” Robert Hammond, a retired United States Marine, told The Epoch Times.
The Santa Ana, California, resident, who’s now 62, was stationed for a few months in 1980 at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and learned decades later that he had ingested contaminated water at the base.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 1 million people
may have been exposed to water contamination at the location, which was caused by toxins that entered several water supply areas.
Mr. Hammond was discharged from the military in 1984 and said he ultimately developed several serious health effects from the contamination.
“[My doctors] said there was a definite connection to my symptoms and the chemicals found in Camp Lejeune’s water supply during that time,” he said.
According to Mr. Hammond, the water was used for nearly everything.
“This was water we drank, cooked with, bathed with, made coffee with,” he said.
The CDC determined in 2017 that two of the base’s water supply stations were contaminated with chemicals such as trichloroethylene (TCE)—a volatile, colorless, liquid primarily used to make refrigerant and as a degreasing solvent for metal equipment.
The investigation showed that samples taken in 1982 contained TCE levels of 1,400 parts per billion. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a federal public health agency within the United States Department of Health and Human Services based in Atlanta, water containing more than 5 parts per billion can be harmful to the human body.
“This contamination is destroying the bodies of the Marines, Navy, and civilian personnel working at Camp Lejeune,” Mr. Hammond said. “Many are now gone.”
According to the CDC, the high levels of the chemicals found in the water have led to a variety of deadly illnesses, including cancers of the kidney, liver, prostate, breast, bladder, brain, and esophagus, heart issues, scleroderma, Parkinson’s, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the last of which Mr. Hammond was diagnosed with in 2009.
“For fellow Marines and I at Camp Lejeune, that toxic water put our lives and health to a stop,” Mr. Hammond said.
He said that since his diagnosis, he has had to stop working as a special education teacher and can’t hold any type of job.
According to Mr. Hammond, neither the U.S. Marine Corps nor the federal government has reached out to him and others stationed at Camp Lejeune who were affected by the base’s toxic water supply.
U.S. Marine Corp. veteran Robert Hammond near his home in Santa Ana, Calif., on Dec. 11, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
A CDC spokesperson acknowledged the toxic water to The Epoch Times and said those affected should reach out to their private physician.
“If someone feels that they may have been affected by or exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, they should contact their healthcare provider to discuss their concerns and determine an appropriate plan for medical treatment and care,” the spokesperson said.
Orders to Hydrate
Other local Marines stationed at Camp Lejeune are facing the same health battles, including Michael Gervais of San Diego.
“I’m 59 years old, and I probably have all the health issues that a 90-year-old would have,” Mr. Gervais told The Epoch Times.
According to Mr. Gervais, those issues include cysts and trouble with his corneas, the latter of which he said was caused by another chemical found in the water at Camp Lejeune: benzene.
Mr. Gervais, who was stationed at the base intermittently from 1982 to 1987, said he remembers that commanders gave orders to “stay hydrated” while training.
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Marines at Camp Lejeune, at the time, consumed up to an estimated six liters of water per day—and under warm or hot conditions, even more.
“We were ordered to drink water and stay hydrated while at the base,” Mr. Gervais said.
He also said those in training were also encouraged to swim at a nearby pool, which was connected to the then-contaminated water supply.
Like Mr. Hammond, Mr. Gervais said he has received no communication from the Marine Corps or the federal government regarding the water contamination.
Young Marines march during the Swallows Day Parade in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., on March 25, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
The Fight to Survive
Others across the country who served at the base and consumed the toxic water have said that they’re facing similar health repercussions.
In Virginia, another discharged Marine, Curtis Crawford, said he had been stationed at the base for only 46 days in 1981 but has had declining health since 1995.
“Around that time, I went from a 195-pound man down to about 118 over a year-and-a-half,” Mr. Crawford told The Epoch Times.
He said his issues began with food allergies and escalated to a compromised small intestine and an inability to process food.
Mr. Crawford said he soon began to lose clients because of his consistent sickness. Ultimately, he wasn’t able to work at all.
“Aside from other health complications, my hair was falling out, depression kicks in, and the doctors were saying it’s because I smoked cigarettes,” he said.
According to Mr. Crawford, Marines stationed at Camp Lejeune during his time are “dying left and right” because of health complications caused by the toxic water.
“I lost a good friend and fellow Marine just two days after Thanksgiving last month,” he said. “Most of the people who ingested toxic water at Camp Lejeune are already gone.”
Some who have been affected stay connected through social media groups on Facebook such as “Camp Lejeune Toxic Water Survivors” and “Children of Camp Lejeune.”
He noted that survivors find such groups necessary, as public information about the issue has been slim.
“There haven’t been any news stories of anything really about this issue out there,” Mr. Crawford said. “We all feel that Uncle Sam’s keeping this quiet, because they don’t want to allow the American public to know what we are going through.”
Neither the Veterans Affairs Office nor the Government Accountability Office responded to a request for comment by press time.
reported on Jan. 2 that nearly 150,000 administrative claims and 1,500 lawsuits have been filed regarding the toxic water at Camp Lejeune, and the first cases are expected to go to trial in 2024.
This was made possible by the Camp Lejeune Justice Act
of 2022, which allowed new legal action to be taken by those exposed to the contaminated water.
to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website, those who served at Camp Lejeune or Marine Corps Air Station New River between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987, may be eligible for disability and health care benefits. Family members may also be eligible
for some benefits.
A United States Marine finishes honor guard duty in Yorba Linda, Calif., on May 23, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)