EPA wrangles Pendleton into a decree due to water contamination from dead animals

    Rats and Frogs in Water at Camp Pendleton
    EPA writes scathing reports after discovering dead rats and frogs in Camp Pendleton water supply. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

    The California Marine Base is reaching record heights of non-excellence yet again, this time in regards to tainted drinking water filled with rat carcasses and frogs- and the Environmental Protection Agency isn’t thrilled.

    “The United States Marine Corps (USMC) has agreed to bring two public water systems at Camp Pendleton into compliance with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act as part of a consent order with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” the EPA wrote in a statement. “Camp Pendleton’s South and North systems provide drinking water to approximately 55,000 customers.”

    Camp Pendleton is supposed to add disinfectants to its groundwater systems as part of a treatment process. While the process is supposed to be supervised and operated by qualified personnel, an EPA inspection in June found that the base lacked adequate supervision and qualified operators for treatment and distribution at its South and North public water systems.

    “Public water systems must meet all state and federal requirements to provide safe drinking water to their customers,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Our priority is to ensure the base achieves compliance promptly, to serve those who live and work at Camp Pendleton.”

    But wait, there’s more.

    The EPA found several significant deficiencies at both systems, including rotting rodent and amphibian carcasses in three reservoirs. In addition, the EPA found that the advanced water treatment plant had been periodically shut down and that operators were not completing required equipment testing. 

    The final nail in the inspection coffin, however, was when inspectors found that operators did not regularly inspect, maintain, and document monitoring efforts, which resulted in foundational cracks and inadequate seals.

    Quick to cover their liabilities, the Marines removed the animal remains and cleaned, refilled, and tested the reservoirs for total coliform (bacteria present in the environment and in the feces of all warm-blooded animals and humans) and chlorine. From here on out, the Marines will conduct additional testing to ensure the water in the reservoirs is safe to drink.

    Under the EPA’s order, the USMC must also issue a public notice informing customers of the ongoing compliance issues- which will no doubt be a severe blow to the authorities at Pendleton. In addition, the EPA is requiring the USMC to shut down, inspect, clean and sample all other Camp Pendleton reservoirs for total coliform within 180 days

    Should any of the samples test positive, the USMC must issue a public notice and provide affected customers the choice to receive an alternative source of drinking water, be it from bottled water or other means. The reservoirs will remain on lockdown until approved by the EPA.

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    1. I’m a military retiree who has been living on Camp Pendleton since April 2015. I’ve also lived on Camp Pendleton during my active duty tour from 1986 – 2013. I’m sad to say that I haven’t received any type of notification. This is something big and it should have been announced by the housing office as well.

      My mother was the one who told me about it and she heard about it on the NPR radio station. I will be contacting the housing office Monday morning.

      P.S. I’m also a victim of the Camp Lejeune water contamination.


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