UCF Historical past Grad Helps Safe Justice for Navy Households Uncovered to Poisonous Water

When Mike Partain ’21MA was 39 years outdated, his spouse hugged him and felt a lump in his chest.

The lump didn’t go away, so Partain scheduled a health care provider’s appointment. To his shock, the physician referred him for a mammogram.

“I bear in mind sitting within the ready room, they usually left me there for some time, considering I used to be ready for my spouse,” Partain says. “I get again [to the exam room], they usually give me a pink smock with flowers on it. The nurse got here in, and I checked out her and simply knew one thing wasn’t proper. I might inform from the expression on her face.”

“The nurse got here in, and I checked out her and simply knew one thing wasn’t proper. I might inform from the expression on her face.”

Partain met with a radiologist, who referred him to a surgeon for a biopsy. Two days later, Partain realized that he had male breast most cancers. He underwent a proper radical mastectomy to take away the two 1/2-centimeter tumor.

“The hospital stated my threat of getting male breast most cancers within the normal inhabitants at my age was .005%,” says Partain.

“Male breast most cancers usually impacts males who’re 70 or older, who’ve the BRCA1 or 2 hereditary breast most cancers markers — I don’t have these — or who’re of European Jewish descent, which I’m not. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke.

“So, the entire time I’m questioning: ‘What contest in hell did I win did I get breast most cancers?’ ” he says.

The Fact About Camp Lejeune

A number of weeks later, as Partain was getting ready for chemotherapy, the cellphone rang. His father, a retired Marine and Vietnam veteran, urged him to activate CNN.

“As much as that time, ‘Camp Lejeune’ meant nothing greater than some phrases on my delivery certificates,” remembers Partain. “It’s a Marine Corps base in Jacksonville, North Carolina. I used to be born there on January 30, 1968.”

That every one modified as Partain watched retired Marine Grasp Sgt. Jerry Ensminger testify earlier than Congress on CNN.

Ensminger spoke about his daughter Janey, who was conceived at Camp Lejeune and died of leukemia at age 9. He testified that kids of Marines born at Camp Lejeune between January 1968 and December 1985 could have been uncovered to poisonous chemical substances within the base’s ingesting water, together with tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, vinyl chloride and benzene.

“That’s the primary time I had heard about Camp Lejeune, the primary time that I spotted that one thing dangerous had occurred, and likewise the primary time I spotted why I had breast most cancers.”

“I about handed out,” says Partain. “That’s the primary time I had heard about Camp Lejeune, the primary time that I spotted that one thing dangerous had occurred, and likewise the primary time I spotted why I had breast most cancers.”

Camp Lejeune, the biggest Marine base on the East Coast, was established in 1942 to assist practice U.S. Marines for the seaside landings that will be instrumental to profitable World Conflict II. Sadly, the Navy engineers who designed the bottom drew its water from a shallow aquifer that was polluted over a number of many years by leaking underground storage tanks, spills, drum disposal, and contaminants seeping into the bottom from on-base models that cleaned army gear.

Three separate water distribution methods that traditionally provided water to the vast majority of the bottom’s household housing models had been ultimately discovered to be contaminated with risky natural compounds. Tetrachloroethylene and trichloroethylene, each carcinogens, had been 20 and 280 instances over acceptable ranges, respectively.

It’s estimated that as many as 1 million folks had been uncovered to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, making it one of many worst examples of water contamination in U.S. historical past.

Mike Partain ’21MA and his mom Lisette after his delivery at a Camp Lejeune medical middle. A glass of water and bottle containing method blended with the bottom’s water sits on the bedside desk. (Picture courtesy of Mike Partain ’21MA)

Marines, their households, and civilian staff have been affected by kidney most cancers, bladder most cancers, leukemia, Parkinson’s illness, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, miscarriages, and delivery defects.

“I used to be conceived, carried, and delivered on the bottom,” says Partain. “So, an important time of my life — from the second I used to be conceived to the second I used to be born — my mom was ingesting the water, bathing within the water; she was ingesting these chemical substances after which passing them to the fetus. My publicity occurred at in all probability essentially the most susceptible time in my life, and it’s achieved injury that lasted my total life.

Partain’s Advocacy

Studying the reality about Camp Lejeune rapidly set Partain on a path of advocacy that has lasted for 15 years.

“My background is in historical past,” Partain explains. “I was a historical past instructor within the Worldwide Baccalaureate program at Bartow Excessive College. So, it was up my alley to analyze and begin studying about what occurred.”

“My background is in historical past. … So, it was up my alley to analyze and begin studying about what occurred.”

Ensminger invited Partain to affix a group help panel, which was assembly with the federal government in regards to the contamination at Camp Lejeune. He started reaching out to the media, monitoring down others impacted by Camp Lejeune’s poisonous water, aiding the federal government in well being research and brushing by way of related paperwork.

In 2009 and 2010, Partain testified earlier than Congress as an knowledgeable on the historical past of Camp Lejeune. Since 2007, he has positioned 125 males who had been uncovered to the poisonous water on base and had male breast most cancers, the biggest male breast most cancers cluster ever recognized.

“I began [working with Ensminger] by organizing hundreds of paperwork, a number of thousand pages of paperwork, and I constructed a 44-page group narrative that we known as a ‘timeline of occasions,’ ” says Partain. “I regarded on the paperwork, and I checked out what the Marines stated occurred, and I spotted that the 2 didn’t actually match.”

Partain’s timeline of occasions helped shift the narrative away from what the Marine Corps claimed occurred at Camp Lejeune to the fact that the group had found.

It grew to become clear that Camp Lejeune didn’t observe the Navy’s potable water directions. When water regulation testing necessities had been tightened in 1972, the Marine Corps didn’t adhere to the brand new requirements. And by 1980, unbiased labs started warning the bottom that the water was contaminated. At this level, in Partain’s opinion, the Marine Corps was responsible of legal negligence.

“Once we had been achieved, there’s just about been an acceptance in Congress and the media that the bottom was contaminated, the water was contaminated, and for seven years they knowingly poisoned their very own folks,” says Partain.

In 2009, because of the group’s analysis, the Company for Poisonous Substances and Illness Registry revised its 1997 public well being evaluation of the ingesting water at Camp Lejeune. It was the primary time within the company’s historical past that that they had ever withdrawn or corrected a public well being evaluation.

Mike Partain ’21MA (far proper) on the signing of the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Households Act of 2012 with President Barack Obama (middle). (Picture courtesy of Mike Partain ’21MA)

Three years later, President Barack Obama signed the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Households Act of 2012, which included the Janey Ensminger Act. It granted healthcare on a restricted foundation to servicemembers and their households who had been primarily based at Camp Lejeune throughout the interval of water contamination.

Though the passage of the act represented a victory for advocates like Partain, he and others who had been handled earlier than its passage weren’t eligible to retroactively declare medical bills.

Preserving the Analysis

In 2013, Partain enrolled at UCF part-time to pursue his grasp’s diploma in historical past, balancing school coursework with a full-time job and his continued advocacy.

“My grasp’s thesis targeted on our work with Camp Lejeune,” says Partain. “I used the timeline and the narrative for example what we did as a social justice motion, the steps we took to get management over the narrative about what occurred. Having this memorialized — how we did what we did — will assist different communities going through related conditions.”

His third daughter is now set to start out her junior 12 months at UCF.

“UCF is a superb faculty,” Partain says. “It’s an attractive campus, and I actually loved the expertise. I used to be 40-something years outdated, and I obtained to be a school pupil once more.”

A Ultimate Victory: The PACT Act

Regardless of important progress over time, Partain and different Camp Lejeune advocates encountered a setback in 2014.

An electronics firm in North Carolina was sued by close by property homeowners for air pollution that turned up of their wells in 2009, 24 years after the corporate’s plant had shut down. The Supreme Courtroom dominated in favor of the electronics firm, upholding North Carolina’s “statute of repose,” which says that an organization can’t face injury claims greater than 10 years after its final act of air pollution.

“Principally, this meant that I’d have wanted to have a go well with towards the federal government 12 years earlier than I knew I had most cancers to show that I used to be poisoned at Camp Lejeune,” says Partain. “We’ve been making an attempt to get that case reversed for the previous eight years.”

On Aug. 3, 2022, this objective was lastly achieved by way of the passage of the PACT Act, which accommodates the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. The act will present healthcare advantages to members of the army uncovered to toxins whereas serving, and it’ll enable Marines, their households, and civilian employees who suffered water toxicity-related ailments to hunt compensation from the federal government.

“This invoice represents justice. … It restores our rights.”

“This invoice represents justice,” says Partain. “We’re not asking for a free hand-out. My breast most cancers was attributable to the water. I need a jury of my friends to overview my arguments, and the federal government’s [argument] for that matter, and determine whether or not or not I used to be harmed. And the invoice offers us that. It restores our rights.”

Partain was current for each the passage and the signing of the PACT Act.

“I sat there watching each transfer, listening to each dialog on the ground,” he says. “When the ultimate vote was taken, most of the veterans wept and hugged each other as we realized it might cross. We had been part of historical past, a day I believed would by no means occur.

“Historical past is not only a passive self-discipline. It’s lively and dwelling and may also help information us to perform good on this planet.”

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