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Five Life Lessons

1. – First Important Lesson – Cleaning Lady..
During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz.. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions until I read the last one:

‘What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?’

Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50’s, but how would I know her name?

I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade.

‘Absolutely,’ said the professor. ‘In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say ‘hello.’

I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy….

2. – Second Important Lesson – Pickup in the Rain
One night, at 11:3 0 p.m., an older African American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rainstorm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride.

Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car. A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 60s’.. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxicab.

She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him. Seven days went by and a knock came on the man’s door. To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home. A special note was attached..

It read:
‘Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also my spirits. Then you came along. Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband’s bedside just before he passed away.. God bless you for helping me and
unselfishly serving others.’

Sincerely, Mrs. Nat King Cole.

3. – Third Important Lesson – Always remember those who serve.
In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. ‘How much is an ice cream sundae?’ he asked.

‘Fifty cents,’ replied the waitress.

The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it.
‘Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?’ he inquired..

By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient.

‘Thirty-five cents,’ she brusquely replied..

The little boy again counted his coins.

‘I’ll have the plain ice cream,’ he said.

The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left. When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two quarters and five pennies..

You see, he couldn’t have the sundae, because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip..

4. – Fourth Important Lesson. – The obstacle in Our Path.
In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock.

Some of the king’s wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.

Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The
peasant learned what many of us never understand!

Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.

5. – Fifth Important Lesson – Giving When it Counts…
Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare & serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister..

I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and
saying, ‘Yes I’ll do it if it will save her.’ As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheek. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded.

He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, ‘Will I start
to die right away’.

Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her but he had chosen to save her anyway.

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Camp Lejeune Water Contamination History

William R. Levesque

St. Petersburg Times Staff Writer
October 18, 2009

The story of what some scientists call the worst public drinking-water contamination in the nation’s history is told in thousands of Marine Corps, North Carolina and federal documents produced by the EPA investigation of Camp Lejeune water in the 1980s.  That probe led to the camp being listed as a Superfund site in 1989. Camp Lejeune is a vital base to the Marines. It was founded in 1941 on North Carolina’s Atlantic coast and is one of the Corps’ busiest and largest bases. Like other military bases of the era, environmental stewardship there often lagged. The EPA called Lejeune a “major polluter” in the 1970s. The Corps says it disposed of wastes in those early years in ways consistent with common practices of the time. Records show the Marines dumped oil and industrial wastewater in storm drains. Potentially radioactive materials were buried, including carcasses of dogs used in testing. The camp even located a day care in a former malaria control shop where pesticides were mixed and stored.

One significant source of water contamination was a nearby dry-cleaning business that for years dumped into drains wastewater laden with chemicals used in dry cleaning. Those included tetrachloroethylene, or PCE, a suspected carcinogen. PCE, which has multiple industrial uses, and another solvent and suspected carcinogen were also used widely by Marines on base to clean machinery. The Marine Corps has maintained for two decades that the chemicals found in Camp Lejeune drinking water in the 1980s were not regulated. But that is only partly true. In the early 1980s, the EPA did not regulate organic solvents like PCE. But regulations by the Department of Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, in force at the base, barred harmful substances in water. And the dangers posed by organic solvents were well known. Other military bases in the 1970s closed wells tainted with solvents, including Willow Grove Naval Air Station and the Warminster Naval Air Warfare Center, both in Pennsylvania. And a regulation on the books at Camp Lejeune as early as 1974 shows the Corps knew the danger organic solvents posed. The rule outlined the safe disposal of hazardous wastes such as “organic solvents” and warned they could contaminate drinking water. The Marine Corps never released that 1974 regulation or other Navy rules governing drinking water to investigators who later reviewed water contamination at Camp Lejeune.

With tighter environmental regulations looming, military chemists began testing Camp Lejeune drinking water in earnest in October 1980. The base had dozens of water wells. A test that month detected trace levels of organic compounds, or solvents, in treated water. But for reasons unclear in records, the Marines say they didn’t get results until 1982. Not that it mattered. Camp Lejeune did nothing to investigate the source of contamination even after getting the results. Also in October 1980, an Army lab began testing treated water from Lejeune’s Hadnot Point water system for a potentially dangerous chemical by-product of chlorination. But other chemicals were interfering with the results. That was alarming because such interference is caused by organic compounds, chemists say. William Neal Jr., chief of laboratory services for the Army lab doing tests, wrote in an Oct. 30, 1980 report, “Water highly contaminated.” He mentioned “strong interference” by an organic chemical. Neal kept testing the water, and his warnings escalated.

  • Dec. 18, 1980: “Heavy organic interference. You need to analyze for chlorinated organics.”
  • Feb. 9, 1981: “You need to analyze for . . . organics.”
  • March 9, 1981: “Water highly contaminated . . . (Solvents)!”

Camp Lejeune also began testing water in its rifle range area in 1981 to see if chemicals had drifted from a hazardous waste dump to nearby water wells. These tests involved a water system separate from the one generating Neal’s warnings. A rifle range water well was found to be contaminated with some of the same compounds seen elsewhere at Camp Lejeune. Three months later, engineers with oversight over drinking water at the base ordered the closure of one rifle range water well.  The Corps did not respond to questions about why it closed one well with “unregulated” chemicals but kept others open. In 1982, Grainger Laboratories in Raleigh, N.C., was hired to test water at Camp Lejeune. The lab’s first test shocked chemists. They found “synthetic organic cleaning solvents” contaminating water from two of the base’s largest living areas, where thousands of Marines and family lived.

Mike Hargett, Grainger’s co-owner, told the Times that he and a base chemist urged the Marine officer with oversight over water issues to investigate and fix contamination. But Hargett said, “They would not recognize the hazard. They did not react.”

Grainger warnings about contamination persisted in report after report over the next two years. In August 1982, a Grainger report said raw water at a treatment plant was contaminated with solvents, which could only mean one thing: wells themselves were contaminated. A Marine spokesman said the report did not provide such confirmation, noting the Corps waited until 1984 to test wells directly because evidence of contamination was inconsistent.

Bruce Babson, the Grainger chemist testing base water, told the Times Grainger warnings were not well received by the Corps. “I was standing my ground from a lot of pressure from people who did not want the evidence in the record,” Babson said. “But I wouldn’t let it go.” In conjunction with the Navy, Camp Lejeune in April 1983 finished an initial study of hazardous waste sites on base that posed health risks, a project conducted at other bases around the nation. Copies went to state regulators. The report said nothing about tainted water.

Not long after, Camp Lejeune’s assistant chief of staff for facilities sent North Carolina environmental officials a review of base water testing. The summary said nothing of contamination. By then, Hargett was growing frustrated. His lab was warning the Corps repeatedly, to no avail. So he tipped off North Carolina officials that the Corps was holding back Grainger’s original reports showing contamination. The state demanded the originals. The Marines never sent them, records show, and the state eventually backed down. But things started to unravel for the Marine Corps in 1984. Chemists began testing wells directly. In July of that year, a test of one well detected a chemical found in gasoline at a level that was dangerously high and should have led to the immediate closure of the well, records show. The well remained in operation until November. By then, news of the contamination was made public. In late 1984 and 1985 a total of 10 wells would be closed because of contamination.

Four years had elapsed during which Marines, their spouses and their children drank, bathed and cooked with what scientists believe to be some of the most contaminated water in the United States. Federal scientists later estimated contamination dated to the 1950s. As news of tainted water became public, Camp Lejeune’s commanding general at the time, L.H. Buehl, reassured residents of a base subdivision where Marine families lived that contaminants in water were “minute (trace).” That wasn’t true. Levels of chemicals were among the highest ever seen in a large, public water system, scientists say. The organic solvent and degreaser trichloroethylene, a suspected carcinogen, was found at 1,400 parts per billion at a base hospital tap, 1,148 ppb at an elementary school, 18,900 ppb in a water well. Solvent levels in tap water were up to 280 times higher than what the EPA today considers safe.

With news of contamination now public, the EPA opened an inquiry. But one of the Marines’ first overviews to the agency provided inaccurate information, records show. Arthur Linton, an EPA official in its Environmental Assessment Branch, recounted a meeting with Corps officials in a Feb. 3, 1986, letter he sent to Camp Lejeune.

EPA officials said they were told by the Corps that it learned about contamination by unidentified pollutants in 1983 or 1984. In fact, they were identified earlier. And the chemicals were not unidentified. Linton also wrote that the Corps told the EPA that treated, potable water had not been contaminated when, in fact, it had. The Corps would not comment on this letter. And by 1988, neither the EPA nor the state had yet been told about what may have been one of the biggest threats to base water — storage tanks that had leaked thousands of gallons of fuel into the earth.

Later that year, A.P. Tokarz, a Marine lawyer based at Lejeune, wrote in a memo that he had been informed that 1,500 gallons of fuel were leaking each month and that any fix was still “out-years,” or years distant. He said the camp was legally required to tell the state, but hadn’t. “From an attorney’s perspective concerned with responding to potential litigation,” Tokarz wrote, “it appears patently unreasonable to wait until out-years to replace the tanks. Such delay will result in an indefensible waste of money, and a continuing potential threat to human health and the environment.”The fuel depot was a long-standing problem at Camp Lejeune. In 1979 up to 30,000 gallons of fuel had been spilled. The Corps notes it told the state and EPA about that leak in 1983. Finally, the fuel depot was shut down in 1989 and the state informed about leaks. Years later, the Corps told regulators that fuel wasn’t technically hazardous, a Marine document shows.

Excerpts from comments provided via e-mail by a Marine Corps spokesman, Capt. Brian Block

  • “Three independent reviews have been conducted of the actions taken by the Marine Corps on this matter (2004 Independent Drinking Water Fact-Finding Panel chartered by the Commandant of the Marine Corps, an EPA Criminal Investigation Division investigation, and the 2005 Government Accountability Office review).
  • “The Fact-Finding Panel determined that Camp Lejeune provided drinking water at a level of quality consistent with general water industry practices in light of the evolving regulatory requirements at the time.
  • “The EPA concluded that there had been no violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act, no conspiracy to withhold information, falsify data, or conceal evidence.
  • “The GAO report describes efforts to identify and address the past contamination, activities resulting from concerns about possible adverse health effects and government actions related to the past contamination. . . .”
  • “The Marine Corps has worked, is working, and will continue to work with those agencies who are seeking to find the answers that our Marines and our families deserve. . . .
  • “I would hope that your story will point out that science has yet to find a link or association between exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune and illnesses among former residents — but also note that the Marine Corps has actively cooperated with ATSDR and the (National Research Council) as they have studied this issue.
  • “I also hope that your article puts the actions of the base officials at Camp Lejeune in context with the prevailing environmental and regulatory framework that existed from 1957 until the early 1980s throughout America. I think it is safe to say that our understanding, not only of the effects of chemicals on human health, but also the way we treat our environment has progressed significantly since that time — and that now all bases in the Marine Corps, and Camp Lejeune in particular, have robust environmental protection programs and we continually look for ways to innovate.”

FAST FACTS: Web links about contamination at Camp Lejeune

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