Now, Partain and 40 other men who drank the water on the base have since been diagnosed with the rare form of male breast cancer ? a condition many attribute to the toxins they consumed at Lejeune.
"We'd like to see full disclosures of what happened at the base," Partain told members of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. He is also asking the government to fund further studies correlating breast cancer with the toxic water and ensure medical care or compensation for the victims. "Where's the common sense?" he asked.
Major General Eugene Payne, who oversees Marine Corps facilities, told the Senate panel today that "the studies have not determined an association between exposure and medical conditions" suffered by those at Lejeune.
The Marine Corps maintains that "once the source of the chemicals was determined to be the wells, the wells were immediately taken out of service." The Marine Corps also now states that "taking care of Marines, sailors, their families and civilian workers is our top priority."
In 1997, a federal study on the Lejeune incident said Marines and their families faced little or no increased cancer risk from drinking and bathing in chemical-tainted water at the camp. That report was withdrawn in April after federal health officials found omissions and scientific inaccuracy in the study.
"We can no longer stand behind the accuracy of the information in that document, specifically in the drinking water public health evaluation," William Cibulas, director of health assessment for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, said in April. "We know too much now."
As many as 1 million people may have been exposed to water toxins over 30 years before the bad wells were closed in 1987, health officials now say. The Marines estimated the number at 500,000.
Lawmakers also heard emotional testimony Thursday from veterans and survivors of U.S. service members who faced exposure to toxins during tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Stacy Pennington, the sister of Iraq war veteran Steven Ochs who died in 2008 from cancer, said a military burn pit in Balad, Iraq, was a "ticking time bomb" for her brother.
The pits are used to dispose of medical waste, fuel, plastic, discarded vehicles, trash and ammunition.
Pennington said her brother and other veterans from Balad, just north of Baghdad, complained of colds, headaches, sinus problems and other ailments presumably due to chemical exposure.
Dr. Robert Miller, a pulmonary and critical care expert at Vanderbilt University, told lawmakers sulfur dioxide plumes from the burn pits pose a "potent lung toxin and will create lung injury."
Ochs was diagnosed with Acute Myueloid Leukemia (AML) upon returning from Iraq in 2007 and died several months later. Doctors said they believed condition was chemically induced but could not definitively prove it, Pennington said.
In a separate incident near Basra in southern Iraq, former Army Staff Sergeant and medic Russell Powell inhaled clouds of orange colored dust that blew throughout the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant when he arrived there in 2003.
"The orange dust was located in large bags that were ripped open" and was so widespread, Powell recalled, that "at times there were at least two inches of dust on my boots."