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.
I was born at Camp Lejeune in 1953. I believe my dad was exposed and poisoned there and died an awful (but thankfully short) death at the age of 56. Although it is possible that some of my symptoms could be related to the fact that I was born at Camp Lejeune, I believe the brunt of the adverse health effects that I have suffered are the result of my time spent working for a private industry on the grounds of a former army ordnance munitions plant.
I started working there in 1981 and worked on and off for around 20 years. In the beginning, the plant was still under government contractor authority but was in an inactive status. We knew that there were reports of groundwater contamination in the area of the munitions plant, but we were continually told that the water was tested and was safe to use. In the beginning, we drank the water from the munitions plant’s main well. Over time, we were provided with bottled drinking water but still used the water from the original plant’s well for sanitation and eye wash. Years later, new wells were drilled by the company I worked for and the original plant’s well was placed in a stand-by status.
In late 2008, I began becoming extremely ill. It started with breathing problems, cognition issues, prostate issues, liver problems, and even developed an involuntary movement symptom called myoclonus; it seemed that overnight my body and mind had deteriorated by decades. I knew that whatever was happening was very serious. I was frantic to find the cause and begin some form of treatment.
I saw many doctors over a couple year period and even went to a research hospital and a world renowned clinic, seemingly to no avail. Different doctors speculated that it could be, MS, ALS, Huntington’s Chorea, etc. One doctor even suggested it could be Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease.
When it seemed that the doctors were unable to determine what was wrong with me, I began to take note of the men I had worked with. A fairly large number of men had suffered from unusual health problems, and some had died at an early age. A number of others had taken their own lives. I began asking questions about the water that we had used and, time after time, I came up against a brick wall.
Eventually I was able to get some well sample results that I believe showed contaminants above permissible levels. The worst thing that I found in the documents was the contaminant RDX. This known contaminant in the groundwater was not included in the testing battery. I learned through research that if a chemical/contaminant is unregulated it is not required by law to test for it. I also found out that it is common practice to exclude chemicals from testing, even if they are a known contaminant. I guess this is the reason we were told the water was tested and was found to be “safe”.
RDX is used as an explosive and was widely used during WWII and in later years in the manufacture of munitions. It has limited use in civilian life as rat poison. The following is a quote from a ProPublica piece:
In all, previously unreleased federal EPA and Defense Department data obtained shows there is RDX contamination at more than 65 military installations across the country.
Ultimately a doctor did opine on paper that he believed my symptoms were from being exposed to RDX. This is a problem from coast to coast. It appears that it is being swept under the carpet.
Educate and protect yourselves, because those mandated to do so aren’t!
#PoisonedAndLeftForDead no more.
Note from the Editor: The author currently resides in Nebraska. The account/editorial is verbatim from the author without edit, with only the omission of their name to preserve anonymity.
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Although we put in a claim back in 2009; when we were first notified, we never heard anymore. My husband since passed away, children are effected, but nothing gets done.