RALEIGH, N.C. — A Michigan lawmaker called on leaders of a House committee Friday to hold more hearings on water contamination at Camp Lejeune, after a federal report revealed that the contamination there could date back years earlier than previously thought.
Democratic Rep. John Dingell wrote to the chairman and ranking member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce asking for the hearings. He cited a report by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry which outlines the contamination that's led to a long-running dispute between former residents and the Marines Corps.
Fellow Michigan Rep. Fred Upton chairs the committee. Rep. Henry Waxman is the ranking Democrat on the panel.
Dingell and North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr issued a joint statement responding to the report.
"Today's report reveals the unfortunate truth that the water contamination at Camp Lejeune was far worse than many thought. It is even more clear that Congress must immediately do all it can to help our veterans, their families, and all affected by this tragedy to get the care, treatment, answers, and understanding they've deserved for far too long," the joint statement said.
TCE, an industrial solvent now known as a human carcinogen, likely first exceeded the maximum allowable contaminant level in August 1953, but evidence in the report shows its presence in the water supply might date as far back as November 1948.
"This environmental catastrophe has many far reaching implications which deserve to be further explored by Congress," Dingell wrote in the letter dated Friday.
"Active oversight is needed to ensure that the mortality and birth defect studies are done in a timely manner and in keeping with good scientific practices," Dingell said. "Hearings should also examine whether the state cancer registries are readily accessible to medical researchers and cooperate with such researchers."
A copy of the report was obtained Thursday by The Associated Press. The agency was scheduled to release the report Friday.
The federal agency had initially set 1953 as the date for the earliest known contamination in a letter written in January to the Department of Veterans Affairs. In that letter, the agency said computer modeling showed drinking water in the residential area called Hadnot Point was unsafe for human consumption as far back as that year.
That's still four years earlier than the period for which Marines and their dependents can secure health care and screening for illnesses related to the water. President Barack Obama signed a law last year granting health care and screening to Marines and their dependents on the base between 1957 and 1987.
This week, Burr filed to extend coverage back to 1953.