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BREAKING: U.S. House Passes Groundbreaking Bill Providing Medical Care to Water Contamination Survivors

BREAKING: U.S. House Passes Groundbreaking Bill Providing Medical Care to Water Contamination Survivors

Change.org

Jerry Ensminger with his daughter Janey who died at the age of 9 after being diagnosed with childhood leukemia caused by the cancer-causing chemicals in the water at the Camp Lejeune military base where they lived.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a groundbreaking bill, spearheaded by a campaign led by U.S. Marine Sgt. Jerry Ensminger, to establish medical care for the estimated 200,000 people who were exposed to cancer-causing contaminants in the water on a military base. Ensminger, whose daughter Janey died from leukemia after being exposed to water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, started a Change.org petition that rallied more than 135,000 people to support his efforts.

The Camp Lejeune crisis is widely referred to as the largest water contamination incident in American history, having spanned more than three decades and exposed as many as a million people to cancer-causing chemicals. Today’s vote follows an earlier Senate vote in July, where the bill was passed by unanimous consent. 


“I have been waiting for this moment for fifteen years,” said Jerry Ensminger, who started the petition on Change.org. “I am thankful to every single one of the 135,000 people who signed my petition, and everyone who has supported this important campaign over the years."



Ensminger’s petition called on the U.S. Congress to provide medical care for the families who were stationed at Camp Lejeune between 1957-1987, a 30-year period when water on the base was contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals. The contamination at the base has been well-documented through the years, though Ensminger says the U.S. government has been slow to respond to calls for medical help for affected veterans and their families. 


The bill is expected to be signed into law by President Obama in the coming weeks. 


“I hope other communities who have suffered like the people of Camp Lejeune will be inspired by what we have accomplished,” said Ensminger. “It’s taken years of work to pass this historic bill, and I hope our time and effort will make it easier for others. I can’t bring my daughter back, but I am so proud that Janey’s name is on this bill to inspire others to work for justice.”



Ensminger has testified before Congress and is the subject of the award-winning documentary Semper Fi: Always Faithful. He also co-founded the organization The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten—an organization focused on connecting survivors of Camp Lejeune’s water contamination to each other.



Ensminger has said that he thinks the Marines assumed Camp Lejeune residents would move on and, if they became sick, wouldn't realize that their health issues could be connected to the contaminated water.

"They weren't counting on one angry parent and the Internet," he told Martha Waggoner of the Associated Press last week, referring to his Change.org petition and other online organizing efforts.


Visit EcoWatch’s WATER page for more related news on this topic.

 

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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