Report: Camp Pendleton Officials Skipped Water Radiation Tests

Marines hydrate at the water station during the 5th Battalion, 11th Marines Turkey Trot Holiday 5k race aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Nov 18, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps/Pfc. Drake Nickels)
Marines hydrate at the water station during the 5th Battalion, 11th Marines Turkey Trot Holiday 5k race aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Nov 18, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps/Pfc. Drake Nickels)

Officials on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, failed to test base water for radiation over the final two quarters of 2017, according to a water report obtained by Military.com.

Although never considered at an unsafe level, the base's water supply had been found to contain radiation levels three points above the acceptable contaminant level in early 2017, an official with the state Water Boards told Military.com.

The report was issued late last month.

Typically, gross alpha and uranium tests are conducted every three years, Water Boards official Wei Chang said in an email. When a test is failed, the test frequency is increased. Gross alpha tests measure the overall radioactivity in drinking water.

"Based on the first quarter 2017 results, gross alpha monitoring for this well was triggered to once every quarter starting second quarter 2017," he said.

Although the base conducted and passed the required test in the second quarter, it failed to run the tests again over the final half of the year.

That oversight was caused by a miscommunication, base officials said.

"This sampling was a special monitoring requirement and not part of the routine 20,000 water quality tests that are performed each year," Mark Bonsavage, who oversees Camp Pendleton's environmental security, said in a statement. "This was not clearly communicated by Camp Pendleton staff to the lab."

The testing was restarted, and the water supply met radiation standards in February and May of this year. Two more tests are scheduled for August and November, he said.

In late May, base residents were notified that a bacteria common to sewage and feces was found in their drinking water in April. Officials blamed the bacteria on contaminated test areas.

"Although this is not an emergency, as consumers, you have a right to know what you should do, what happened and what we did to correct this situation," said the notice from Pendleton's Water Resources Division and Environmental Security Department.

Pendleton's ongoing testing problems come amidst even greater drinking water concerns on military bases nationwide, including a report that at least 126 military bases are near or house water that contains perfluorinated compounds at potentially harmful levels.

Those chemicals have been linked to both developmental delays for infants and unborn babies, and a variety of cancers.

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com.

 

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