[Congressional Record Volume 158, Number 109 (Thursday, July 19, 2012)]
[Pages S5203-S5204]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  Mr. NELSON of Florida, Mr. President, it has been 31 years since Camp 
Lejeune officials became aware that toxic compounds were found in the 
drinking water at the North Carolina base. It has taken 31 years for 
countless water tests, analyses, investigations, studies, and reports 
to be conducted so we can finally vote on H.R. 1627, a bill that will 
give thousands of Marine veterans and their families the health care 
they deserve after suffering from illnesses caused by this water 
  Almost 1 million people at Camp Lejeune were exposed to drinking 
water that was poisoned with cancer-causing industrial compounds, 
including trichloroethylene--a metal degreaser, tetrachloroethylene--a 
dry cleaning solvent, benzene and vinyl chloride. For almost 3 decades 
people who lived and worked at the base were drinking, cooking, and 
bathing in water with these toxic chemicals, which medical experts have 
linked to birth defects, childhood leukemia and a variety of other 
  There are over 181,000 people currently registered on the Camp 
Lejeune water contamination website registry, which is the critical 
information link for the Camp Lejeune veterans, civilians, and their 
families who may have been exposed to water contaminants. Next to North 
Carolina, Florida has the second highest number of registrants with 
over 15,000. Every single State has residents registered on the Camp 
Lejeune website, and every Member of the Senate has constituents who 
have been affected by this water contamination.
  Some scientists have been calling this one of the worst public 
drinking-water contaminations in our Nation's history. Some of the most 
vocal supporters of the Camp Lejeune victims are from my State of 
Florida. I am happy to tell them that we are finally doing right by 
those harmed while serving our country. Thanks to the dedication of 
these folks, the full impact of the contamination is being exposed.
  I have pressed the Navy for all the facts surrounding the incident, 
and have advocated for conducting the right studies so those affected 
and their families can get more information on the possible association 
between their exposures and current and future health effects. The 
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has been assessing the 
effects of exposure to drinking water containing volatile organic 
compounds since 1993. This Agency is also conducting an investigation, 
at the request of Congress, to determine the health effects of exposure 
to this drinking water. And the Department of Veterans Affairs already 
employs mechanisms to prevent fraudulent claims.
  We are finally fulfilling our duty to protect our Nation's veterans 
and families who have sacrificed so much. After 55 years, they will 
finally get the medical coverage they are owed.
  Finally, I would like to applaud my colleagues in the Judiciary 
Committee Senators Leahy and Grassley, for shedding some light on this 
water contamination issue.
  Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I am pleased that Chairman Leahy and I 
were able to help with the effort to look at the issue of water 
contamination at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. In 
particular, in June, we sent a letter to the Department of Defense, 
which has resulted in it producing more than 8,500 documents to the 
Judiciary Committee.
  I know that Senator Burr and others have been leaders with the effort 
to look into the situation at Camp Lejeune.
  Every member of the Senate should be aware of the situation at Camp 
  The drinking water contamination that took place over several decades 
at the base was one of the worst environmental disasters in American 
  Camp Lejeune was designated a Superfund site by the Environmental 
Protection Agency (EPA) in 1988 after inspections confirmed 
contamination of the ground water due to the migration of hazardous 
chemicals from outside the base and inadequate procedures to contain 
and dispose of hazardous chemicals on the base.

[[Page S5204]]

  Residents of every State, who previously lived or worked at the base, 
have been impacted by the contamination.
  Indeed, more than 180,000 current and former members of the armed 
services and employees at the base have signed up for the Camp Lejeune 
Historic Drinking Water Registry. By registering, individuals who lived 
or worked at the base before 1987 receive notifications about the 
  The Camp Lejeune registry includes residents from all 50 States. 
1,121 Iowans are among them. It's estimated that more than 750,000 
people may have been exposed to hazardous chemicals at the base.
  The numbers don't fully reflect the impact of the disaster at the 
base. There are real people behind those numbers.
  In March, as part of the Judiciary Committee's annual oversight 
hearing on the Freedom of Information Act, we heard the testimony of 
retired Marine Master Sergeant Jerry Ensminger. He was stationed at 
Camp Lejeune with his family and told us of the battle his daughter, 
Janey, fought with leukemia for two-and-a-half years, before she died 
at the age of nine. He also told us of the difficulties that he and 
others were having getting information from the Department of Defense.
  The men and women of the armed services protect us every day. We 
should never take them or the sacrifices that they and their families 
make for granted.
  We in Congress have an obligation to do everything that we can to 
support them in their mission.
  That's why I'm a cosponsor of the Caring for Camp Lejeune Veterans 
Act, which was introduced by Senator Burr in 2011. That bill, a version 
of which passed by unanimous consent in the Senate yesterday, will help 
to provide medical treatment and care for servicemembers and their 
families, who lived at the camp and were injured by the chemical 
  Unfortunately, the Department of Defense has not been forthcoming 
with information about the contamination at Camp Lejeune.
  That's troubling, especially coming from the administration that 
proclaims itself to be the ``most transparent administration ever.''
  As we all recall, on his first full day in office, President Obama 
declared openness and transparency to be touchstones of his 
administration, and ordered agencies to make it easier for the public 
to get information about the government.
  Specifically, he issued two memoranda written in grand language and 
purportedly designed to usher in a ``new era of open government.''
  Based on my experience in trying to pry information out of the 
Executive Branch and based on investigations I've conducted, and 
inquiries by the media, I'm disappointed to report that President 
Obama's statements in memos about transparency are not being put into 
  There's a complete disconnect between the President's grand 
pronouncements about transparency and the actions of his political 
  The situation with the Camp Lejeune documents is just another example 
of that disconnect. The documents should have been produced long ago.
  The recent letter that Chairman Leahy and I sent from the Judiciary 
Committee had to be sent because the Defense Department refused to 
produce documents in response to a March letter signed by six senators 
and three members of the House of Representatives. Chairman Leahy and I 
had also signed that March letter.
  The March letter had to be sent because of complaints that 
Congressional offices had received about the Navy's refusal to disclose 
documents needed for scientific studies of the contamination at Camp 
Lejeune. It was also needed because of claims that the Navy is 
improperly citing exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act to 
withhold documents related to the contamination.
  So, while I'm pleased that there was a bipartisan effort to obtain 
these documents, I'm disappointed by the stonewalling and by the 
hurdles that were put up by the administration.
  Transparency and open government must be more than just pleasant 
sounding words found in memos. They are essential to the functioning of 
a democratic government.
  Transparency is about basic good government and accountability--not 
party politics or ideology.
  Throughout my career I have actively conducted oversight of the 
Executive Branch regardless of who controls the Congress or the White 
  I'll continue doing what I can to hold this administration's feet to 
the fire with Camp Lejeune and where ever else I find stonewalling and 
  Thank you. I yield the floor.