A U.S. government health agency conducted epidemiological studies to evaluate whether exposures to drinking water contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOC) at U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, were associated with increased health risks to children and adults. These health studies required knowledge of contaminant concentrations in drinking water—at monthly intervals—delivered to family housing, barracks, and other facilities within the study area. Because concentration data were limited or unavailable during much of the period of contamination (1950s–1985), the historical reconstruction process was used to quantify estimates of monthly mean contaminant-specific concentrations. This paper integrates many efforts, reports, and papers into a synthesis of the overall approach to, and results from, a drinking-water historical reconstruction study. Results show that at the Tarawa Terrace water treatment plant (WTP) reconstructed (simulated) tetrachloroethylene (PCE) concentrations reached a maximum monthly average value of 183 micrograms per liter (μg/L) compared to a one-time maximum measured value of 215 μg/L and exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s current maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 5 μg/L during the period November 1957–February 1987. At the Hadnot Point WTP, reconstructed trichloroethylene (TCE) concentrations reached a maximum monthly average value of 783 μg/L compared to a one-time maximum measured value of 1400 μg/L during the period August 1953–December 1984. The Hadnot Point WTP also provided contaminated drinking water to the Holcomb Boulevard housing area continuously prior to June 1972, when the Holcomb Boulevard WTP came on line (maximum reconstructed TCE concentration of 32 μg/L) and intermittently during the period June 1972–February 1985 (maximum reconstructed TCE concentration of 66 μg/L). Applying the historical reconstruction process to quantify contaminant-specific monthly drinking-water concentrations is advantageous for epidemiological studies when compared to using the classical exposed versus unexposed approach.
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