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In the decades that poisonous chemicals tainted the drinking water at Camp Lejeune, N.C., hundreds of thousands of Marines filed through the base, but so far, only 200 veterans have asked the Department of Veterans Affairs to link their illnesses to the poisons.
Of those, only 20 have been told "yes."
A Veterans Affairs official told Congress on Thursday that despite the evidence of widespread contamination of drinking water at Camp Lejeune, the agency doesn't think that the science yet exists to link exposure to the toxic water led to a host of cancers and other diseases suffered by former base residents.
"Establishing presumptive diseases at this point would be premature," said Thomas J. Pamperin, the associate deputy undersecretary for policy and program management at Veterans Affairs.
Defense Department e-mails obtained by The Daily News seem to corroborate a U.S. Congressman’s claims Thursday that military leaders cared more about bad press than Camp Lejeune Marines poisoned by contaminated water.
The e-mails show base officials sought to delay the release of water contamination questionnaires in 1998 to avoid the premiere of a Hollywood drama about the same subject.
Officials also commented in internal e-mails about how a court martial verdict and ACC March Madness would distract from news about the chemical contamination that fouled water aboard Camp Lejeune for more than three decades.
Memos and e-mails — generated in the late 1990s — between military and civilian officials detail how environmental officials and public affairs officers anticipated public reaction and evaluated news coverage related to base water contamination.