Marines

Environmental Quality Branch ensures base water is clean

2 Jun 2005 | Pfc. Drew W. Barker

Each day Camp Lejeune produces an average of seven million gallons of drinking water, which is pumped from the Castle Hayne Aquifer through 77 deep-water wells to one of five water treatment plants before being sent directly to base resident’s houses.

“In order to ensure that Camp Lejeune’s water is of the highest quality, we’ve developed a plan to dictate what actions will be taken in order to maintain purity and an adequate supply of drinking water,” said Brynn Ashton, head of environmental quality branch with Environmental Management Division, Marine Corps Base.

The Wellhead Protection Plan is the main tool base planners use to ensure the drinking water supply is safe and clean. The purpose of the plan is to designate specific procedures and policies to protect both individual wells and drinking water sources. These protection measures assure Camp Lejeune will provide an adequate and safe supply of drinking water at all times, according to Ashton.

Actions detailed in this plan include restricting land use near well fields, frequent sampling of wells for highly mobile contaminants, locating well fields in undeveloped areas, and constructing wells in a manner that minimizes the potential for contamination from surface sources, according to the Environmental Management Division’s Web site at www.lejeune.usmc.mil/emd.

“Our real goal is to ensure that no contamination is found in the water even before it is sent to the treatment facilities,” said Ashton.

These measures help ensure a safe process, which begins with water, being pumped from the ground.

The water is pumped from these wells to one of the treatment plants, where it goes through a series of purification processes: softening, by removing minerals; filtration through layers of sand and carbon to remove particles; chlorination to protect against microbial contamination; and fluoride addition to help prevent tooth decay, according to the Web site.

In order to ensure the tap water is safe to drink, the Environmental Protection Agency prescribes regulations that limit the amount of certain contaminants in finished drinking water provided by public water systems, according to the official EPA website at www.epa.gov.

Camp Lejeune uses the treatment process and the sampling of finished and raw water supplies to detect and preclude contaminants from the drinking water system.

The drinking water at Camp Lejeune is routinely tested for more than 80 different U.S. EPA regulated chemical and microbiological contaminants on a basis that meets or exceeds all Safe Drinking Water Act sampling requirements. In addition, the base regularly tests for a number of contaminants that are not regulated, according to Ashton.

“In all testing cases we try to exceed standards set by EPA, state and federal regulations,” said Ashton.

“The best way to ensure that drinking water is safe and clean is to prevent pollutants from ever entering the aquifer,” said Ashton. “Because even small amounts of pollutants can contaminate millions of gallons of water, prevention is always the best policy. Therefore, the base implements many precautionary measures to minimize the risk of contaminating this valuable resource.”

Camp Lejeune’s Underground Storage Tank program provides several examples of the efforts made to restore and protect the quality of water here.

During the past decade, more than 500 regulated USTs and more than 2,500 non-regulated USTs have been removed from the base. The base has minimized the use of USTs and reduced the number on base to 72, all but one of which is constructed of corrosion–resistant materials, according to Ashton.

Another initiative designed to reduce the risk of USTs is the installation of a computer-based UST monitoring system that immediately alerts site personnel to release of hazardous materials, according to www.lejeune.usmc.mil/emd.

Protecting our groundwater from contamination is vital and is something each of us can help with by properly storing, handling, using and disposing of all chemicals, fuels and oil products.

“The base is going to ensure that the drinking water provided is safe for the Marines, sailors, families and civilians that live, work and train onboard the base,” said Ashton.