Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort provided maps this month showing the status of ongoing environmental testing in the housing community as it continues to respond to health concerns.
The maps, answers to common questions and information about heating oil tanks were all posted to a website created to update families on the status of an ongoing investigation into possible health hazards at . The health study gained attention earlier this year after a pair of women went public with stories about their children being diagnosed with leukemia after the families had lived in the military community at the same time.
Marine Corps officials said there is no information yet linking to health issues. Navy health officials are expected to complete a comprehensive study this spring.
Maps show the ongoing testing of home sites where heating oil tanks had been buried. Groundwater is still being tested at about 100 of the 1,100 home sites, the maps show.
The majority of the homes require no further probing after initial soil and groundwater tests, according to the air station’s map. The base has said all 1,251 tanks once buried in have been removed and that there is no evidence yet linking cancer cases with living in the housing community.
Concerned Marines and parents quizzed the air station’s commanding officer, Col. Peter Buck, during two town hall meetings in January. The meetings weren’t open to news reporters, but MCAS later posted video from the gatherings in the air station’s theater.
The first meeting lasted about two hours and the second a little more than an hour, the videos show.
Buck was asked why the families weren’t alerted sooner to a health study that began in June 2015 and whether they could get out of their leases if they thought their health was in danger. A mother of five said she has concerns related to the symptoms of one of her children.
“What do you have to offer us?” she asked.
Others wondered whether the oil tanks remained under their homes. They cited maps from a 2016 meeting showing more than 30 tanks still in the ground.
Further investigation showed those tanks had already been removed, Buck said.
Buck repeatedly said during the town hall meetings he would take action if the investigation points to a health issue in . He appeared to hold back tears while noting he and his family also live in the community.
“I hope my presence in with you is an indicator of my confidence.” Buck said.
The Navy Marine Corps Public Health Center’s investigation is looking for possible avenues for contaminants at , MCAS Beaufort and Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. Navy health officials are also trying to identify all childhood cancer cases involving military children living in Beaufort or conceived here.
At the town halls, several people noted the transient military lifestyle and asked whether those families who have moved away are included in the investigation. Buck said those families should be within the scope of the study.
The health center recently delivered guidelines to medical providers around the world who might address patients from with concerns, the Military Times reported. In addition to the pediatric cancer cases believed tied to , concerns have also extended to a possible connection to adult diagnoses.
Stephen Fastenau: 843-706-8182, @IPBG_Stephen
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