Purple wildflowers sprout in abundance around the bright-yellow pipe, one of several jutting from the sandy soil in this unassuming patch of grass and mud. A dirty hose runs from the pipe to an idling truck and into a large tank labeled, “NON-POTABLE WATER.”
This is the former Hadnot Point fuel farm, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune’s main fuel depot until it was ordered closed in the 1980s. At one point, a layer of gasoline 15 feet thick floated atop the groundwater here, and this “fluid vapor recovery” truck is part of the continuing effort to remove it.
“He’s skimming that contaminate out of that well, into this tank,” civilian Bob Lowder, head of environmental quality for the base, said during a recent tour. “We’ll take that off for recondition or disposal, as appropriate.”
The coastal base is the site of what’s considered the worst case of drinking-water contamination in the nation’s history. But the Marines stress that that’s just what it is — history.