Aug 16

Obama signs bill to help Camp Lejeune water victims

Obama signs bill to help Camp Lejeune water victims

Published: 12:15 AM, Tue Aug 07, 2012
Obama signs bill to help Camp Lejeune water victims
Story Photo
AP file photo
In this 2007 photo. Jerry Ensminger holds a portrait of his daughter, Janey, in White Lake. Janey Ensminger died at age 9. President Obama signed into law Monday the Janey Ensminger Act, which provides health benefits to Marines and family members exposed to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune from 1957 to 1987.

The Associated Press

RALEIGH – President Obama said the United States has a sacred duty to protect its men and women in uniform, even when the dangers lurk on the bases where they lived.

The president signed a bill into law Monday that provides health benefits to Marines and family members exposed to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune from 1957 to 1987.

“I think all Americans feel we have a moral, sacred duty toward our men and women in uniform,” Obama said in an Oval Office ceremony before signing the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act. “They protect our freedom, and it’s our obligation to do right by them. This bill takes another important step in fulfilling that commitment.”

The law also bans protesting within 300 feet of military funerals.

The bill passed Congress last week with bipartisan support. Health officials believe as many as 1 million people may have been exposed to tainted groundwater at the base along the North Carolina coast.

Jerry Ensminger of Elizabethtown was one of those affected and attended Monday’s ceremony. He led the fight for information about the water problems at Camp Lejeune since his daughter, Janey, died in 1985 at the age of 9 of a rare form of childhood leukemia. Other soldiers, who suffered from a rare form of male breast cancer, also said the government spent years trying to hide the problem and the poor response by officials.

“Some of the veterans and their families who were based in Camp Lejeune in the years when the water was contaminated will now have access to extended medical care,” Obama said. “And, sadly, this act alone will not bring back those we’ve lost, including Jane Ensminger, but it will honor their memory by making a real difference for those who are still suffering.”

Documents show Marine leaders were slow to respond when tests in the early 1980s showed higher than normal levels of contaminants in groundwater and the base, likely caused by leaking fuel tanks and an off-base dry cleaner.

“The Marines affected by this tragedy have sacrificed to keep our country safe,” Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., said in a statement. “I am pleased that today, we are ensuring that our veterans and their family members are taken care of in their time of need.”

Aug 21

“Big Coal” Has Stolen Their Choices In Kentucky

EPA Officials Hear Concerns About Mining, Water Pollution in Eastern Kentucky

Erica Peterson August 19, 2011

Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency are in Kentucky, touring areas in the eastern part of the state and meeting with residents who are concerned about the effect of coal mining on their communities.

At a community meeting last night in Whitesburg, the officials listened to residents describe their problems with coal dust, mountaintop removal blasting and the lack of state and local regulation enforcement.

“As we look at some of the things that are going on, we believe this area qualifies for extra environmental justice consideration,” says EPA Region Four administrator Gwen Keyes Fleming.

Environmental justice is the belief that pollution shouldn’t disproportionately affect groups like the poor or minorities. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, who was not on the tour, has said in the past that achieving environmental justice throughout the country is one of her top priorities.

One of the common issues people mentioned was water. They say their water has been contaminated by mining or their wells ran dry after blasting cracked the water table.

Ada Smith lives in Letcher County. She left for four years to go to college on the east coast, and says she was bothered when her classmates began a campaign to stop people from drinking bottled water–they said it was bad for the environment. She says that isn’t a choice that people in the coalfields get to make.

“It was just one of these moments where I was like, why do these people get the opportunity to discuss how they want to have water and how they want to drink their water and how they want to spend money on water when we have to have a choice of whether we get water or not? I really want to have a choice if the rest of the country gets a choice,” she says.

The EPA officials will visit Lynch today.