Marines to clean up water after rodent carcasses found at Camp Pendleton reservoirs

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SAN DIEGO – Officials at Camp Pendleton have agreed with the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up two public water systems after EPA investigators this summer found several deficiencies, including rat and frog carcasses in three reservoirs on the base.

An EPA inspection in June found that the northern and southern water systems on the sprawling base, which provide drinking water to about 55,000 Marine and their families, lacked adequate supervision and qualified operators. The investigation also turned up the rat carcasses and a dead frog in three reservoirs, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

On Thursday, the Marine Corps and the EPA entered into a consent order to bring the two water systems into compliance with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

“Our priority is to ensure the base achieves compliance promptly, to serve those who live and work at Camp Pendleton,” said Alexis Strauss, acting Pacific Southwest regional administrator for the EPA.

In addition to the rodents and other animal remains found in the reservoirs, the EPA discovered that Camp Pendleton’s advanced water-treatment plant had been periodically shut down, that its operators were not completing required equipment testing and that they did not regularly inspect, maintain and document monitoring efforts, resulting in foundational cracks and inadequate seals.

The Union-Tribune reported that several base workers listed in documents as water treatment supervisors didn’t know they were supervisors.

Shortly after receiving the results of the June inspection, the Marine Corps removed the animal remains and cleaned, refilled and tested the reservoirs for total coliform and chlorine, the EPA said.

On Thursday, base officials began circulating a notice informing residents and others of the EPA’s findings but ensuring that there was no emergency or immediate health risk, the Union-Tribune reported.

In a statement to the newspaper, a Camp Pendleton spokesman said, “Simply put, the water is and has been safe to drink.”

USMC officials, who add disinfectants to their groundwater systems as part of their treatment processes, will conduct additional testing to ensure the water in the reservoirs is safe to drink, according to the EPA. The Marine Corps also must inform customers of the ongoing compliance issues and 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 of receiving an alternative source of drinking water until the reservoirs are brought into compliance, according to the EPA.