Today in a rare show of bi-partisan support, the House of Representatives approved the senate version of the Janey Ensminger Act. With this decision, the landmark bill now goes to the White House for President Barack Obama’s approval, which is all but certain.
The passage of the Janey Ensminger Act is the culmination of years of blood, sweat and tears endured bv Jerry Ensminger, a retired Master Sergeant and former drill instructor at Camp Lejeune. He is credited for singlehandedly initiating the movement to seek justice for his nine-year-old daughter Janey and others who have died or are suffering from medical conditions associated with the the largest water contamination in American history. After reports of the contamination began to hit major news sources 15 years ago, Ensminger was able to secure the help from a number of other individuals who were affected, in particular Mike Partain, who has been Ensminger’s right hand man and was among an unusually large number of men who contracted male breast cancer. Both were featured in the award winning documentary “Semper Fi: Always Faithful” which covers the events at Camp Lejeune and many of the individuals who have been helping Sgt. Ensminger in his effort for justice.
Camp Lejeune, near Jacksonville, North Carolina, is the largest Marine Corps base on the east coast and is home to approximately 170,000 people, including active military personnel, families and civilian workers. The water contamination is said to have existed over a 30 year period from 1957 to 1987 until a report from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATDSR), an extension of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed a possible link between the drinking water at the Camp Lejeune and childhood cancer, in particular leukemia.
Many top officials of the Marines, the Department of the Navy and the Department of Defense have all been sharply criticized for not taking responsibility for the contamination and the associated medical conditions, many of which resulted in loss of life, including friends of Ensminger’s. Military officials at Camp Lejeune were aware of the water contamination for 20 years but the source of the contamination – water wells were not shut down until sometime after the story from the ATDSR broke. In essence, over a 20 year period, military officials were allowing hundreds of thousands of men, women and children to drink and bathe in the contaminated water.
The massive water contamination at Camp Lejeune was the result of improper disposal of chemicals used as cleaning solvents and other toxic substances that were later determined to contaminate the drinking water and pose multiple health threats including cancers, reproductive disorders, brain and spinal defects and birth defects. The four contaminants were identified as Trichloroethylene (TCE) Tetrachloroethylene (PCE) Vinyl Chloride and Benzene.
The Janey Ensminger Act directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish a presumption of service connection for illnesses associated with contaminants in the water supply at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and to provide health care to family members of veterans who lived at Camp Lejeune while the water was contaminated.
After learning of the House decision today, Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C) who sponsored the first bill along with Republican Senator Richard Burr (N.C.) issued a statement today that gives some semblance of peace to the long suffering and tireless spokesman for the cause, Jerry Ensminger and others affected by the contamination:
“By honoring Janey Ensminger, we honor those Americans who have shown remarkable determination to make their government do the right thing,” he said. “…They took on their own government, including the Marine Corps, that they had served, and to which they are still loyal, but which has been shamefully reluctant to accept responsibility for the water contamination.”
For more information about Jerry Ensminger and the latest news covering the contamination at Camp Lejeune, please visit his official website at http://www.tftptf.com. It should be noted that the House approved the bill the day after what would have been Janey Ensminger’s 36th birthday.