Southern California environment news and trends

The Oscars, the Marine Corps and a fight against water contamination

Semper Fi: Always Faithful

Former Marine Corps Sgt. Jerry Ensmigner lost his daughter to a rare form of leukemia and later discovered the drinking water on the base where his family lived was contaminated.

Following last week's posts on nominees for the Academy Award for Documentary Features comes another film: Semper Fi: Always Faithful

The documentary, directed by Rachel Libert and Tony Hardmon, traces the history of one of the worst water contamination incidents in U.S. history. 

It focuses on former Marine Corps Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger's struggle after the death of his 9-year-old daughter Janey, who was diagnosed with a rare type of leukemia. Ensminger, who served for almost 25 years, discovers that the Corps he dedicated his life to was also the source of severe water contamination that was hidden from the public.

The contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base in North Carolina, exposed nearly one million people to toxic water. 

Ensminger and his family lived on the base during the time of peak contamination, which was estimated to have begun in 1957 and lasted until 1987 when many of the wells were closed. Tests in the 1980's showed the water posed some health concerns, but residents were never notified, even after the well closures.