Obama Signs into Law Groundbreaking Bill Providing Medical Care to Water Contamination Survivors
President Obama signed a groundbreaking bill into law on Aug. 6, establishing medical coverage for as many as 750,000 people who were exposed to cancer-causing contaminants in the water on North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune military base between 1957 and 1987.
The campaign was led by Jerry Ensminger, whose daughter Janey died from leukemia after being exposed to water at Camp Lejeune. Earlier this year, Ensminger started a Change.org petition that rallied more than 135,000 people behind health care for Lejeune survivors.
Ensminger was present in the Oval Office when President Obama signed the bill into law.
“I have been waiting for this moment for fifteen years,” said Ensminger. “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.”
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. 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.
“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, which connects survivors of Camp Lejeune’s water contamination.