The following is a personal story submitted to Civilian Exposure and published as part of our new series: “Contamination Chronicles: Personal Stories of Exposure”. If you would like to submit your story, you may fill out our form here or send directly via email to share-@-civilianexposure.org.
While serving in the USAF from 1965-1973 , I was assigned to Kadena Air Base from June 1968 to Dec. 1969. I then returned to CONUS assigned to Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Oscoda, MI from Dec 1969 – Jul 1970.
I have since been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Over the past four years, I have researched the records for evidence of exposure which would cause my PD. There is evidence supporting exposure at both sites. Although denied by both the VA and DOD, Agent Orange was present at Kadena. It was used for vegetation control as reported by veterans statements from servicemen of every branch of the military between 1962 and the 1970’s.
Wurtsmith AFB has a better paper trail showing irrefutable evidence of contamination of the base drinking water with Trichloroethelene (TCE) first discovered in 1977 as a result of a complaint from a base housing resident. The EPA Superfund Contaminants of Concern Update of June 3, 2016 lists all the same contaminants listed in 38-3307(7)(i) as it relates to USMC Camp Lejeune water contaminants.
As of this year, the changes in CFR 38-3307 and CFR 38-3309 have given a presumption of service connection due to exposure to the contaminated water if exposed for a minimum of 30 days continuous or cumulative at Camp Lejeune. The presumption of service connection extends to active duty, and reserve/national guard component members who can prove their presence on site at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 for the stated 30 days. Wurtsmith, to date, has no presumption attached.
In 2001, the ATSDR report titled Final Release stated that:
eight contaminants were present in the tap water well water samples above ATSDR’s drinking water CV’s.
TCE was the only contaminant that could have caused potential adverse health effects.
It also states that TCE was:
detected at high concentrations (ie. 1,100ppb) in a tap water sample collected in Oct.1977 from an on base housing unit (AFBCA1993)
ATSDR further assumed that TCE concentrations could have been that high since 1962, the year the underground storage tank (UST) at Site 21 was installed as there were no prior water tests before October, 1977. Investigators believe that the Arrow Street Plume contaminated USAF’s water supply wells.
Wurtsmith AFB’s contamination is well documented and was acquired frrom documents readily available on the internet and through FOIA requests to the EPAfollowing up on pieces of information gleaned from internet searches.
Wurtsmith AFB was closed in 1993. I have never been contacted by either the USAF or the DOD/VA regarding this exposure. No information or documentation has been provided by the VBA to assist me in the research of this issue or its impact potential. There are eight (8) conditions listed in CFR 38-3309 associated with contaminants in the drinking water at USMC Camp Lejeune. Of those, Parkinson’s Disease is listed as #6.
I have Parkinson’s Disease.
My claim for service connection for Parkinson’s Disease due to exposure at Kadena AB Okinawa (dioxin in Agent Orange) and at Wurtsmith AFB (TCE) has been denied at the VARO level. It is currently in the pile of cases waiting for a BVA hearing in Washington, DC. Currently, Camp Lejeune and Wurtsmith AFB veterans have virtually identical exposures. Yet, they are not given equal status under VA regulations.
Note from the Editor: The author currently lives in New Hampshire. The account/editorial is verbatim from the author without edit, with only the omission of their name to preserve anonymity.