A study by Navy health officials of possible health hazards at Laurel Bay and two Marine Corps bases in northern Beaufort County is expected to finish this spring, a spokesman said Thursday.
The Navy Marine Corps Public Health Center began investigating possible health hazards in June 2015 in the Laurel Bay housing community, at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. The Marine Corps asked for the study after families of children diagnosed with cancer after living at Laurel Bay raised concerns.
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Completion of the study is “dependent upon the (Navy Marine Corps Public Health Center’s) ability to analyze all available data,” MCAS spokesman Capt. Clay Groover said in a statement Thursday.
A YouTube video posted this week by a concerned mother and Marine wife helped drive attention to the issue. Amanda Whatley’s daughter, Katie, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2015 after the family had lived at Laurel Bay. In the video, Whatley said she wanted to make other parents whose families had lived at Laurel Bay aware of a potential issue.
The Marine Corps said it has regularly updated the families, held a town hall-style meeting in April 2016 and would release the results of the study when it’s finished.
Whatley’s friend and fellow Marine wife, Melany Stawnyczyj, told the Marine Corps Times her son had been diagnosed with cancer in 2012 and that the women want to speed up the investigation.
Stawnyczyj provided the news outlet with a Marine Corps document detailing the history of buried oil tanks the women believe could have leaked a known cancer-causing agent and contributed to the health issues.
The tanks were buried when the original Laurel Bay housing was built in the 1950s and the tanks remained in use until the early 1980s, the Marine Corps Times reported. The document said tests during the early 2000s found 70 percent of the the tank sites had contaminated soil above “state action levels,” and air station officials decided it would be best to remove all the tanks.