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WKYT Investigates UPDATE | Veterans exposed to toxic water present petition

Organizers have obtained more than 50,000 signatures.
Published: Mar. 17, 2021 at 3:30 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - A number of Marine Corps veterans say they are one step closer to getting the justice and help they deserve after they were exposed to toxic water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

WKYT Investigates first reported last week about Brian Amburgey, a central Kentucky man fighting for more to be done to help his fellow Marines.

[WATCH: WKYT Investigates | Toxic water at Camp Lejeune]

On Wednesday he and dozens of other veterans gathered at the Elks lodge in Winchester to present their petition to congressional leaders.

The petition calls for a health registry - like what is already in place for service members exposed to Agent Orange, for example - to help further study what is happening to the veterans who were exposed.

“Veterans need to be treated better than we are,” Brian Amburgey told WKYT’s Garrett Wymer at the event on Wednesday. “We’re being treated like second-class citizens. Our families are being treated like third-class citizens. We need the Congress to step up and take care and show that they care about the veterans.”

U.S. government officials have admitted that water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated with toxins from leaking storage tanks on the base and a dry cleaner off the base. As many as one million military and civilian staff and their families might have been exposed to the contaminated drinking water, according to estimates from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

The Marine Corps base is in North Carolina, but thousands of Kentuckians are believed to have gone through there while the water was toxic. About 4,400 people in Kentucky are registered through the military for notifications on the issue, although that number is not necessarily limited only to those exposed.

Local officials - including state Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, state Rep. Ryan Dotson, R-Winchester, and Clark County Sheriff Berl Perdue - were at the ceremony on Wednesday to show their support for the veterans. And representatives from the offices of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Rep. Andy Barr, R-KY06, were on hand to receive the petition.

A law passed in 2012 provides health care coverage for 15 conditions for veterans and family members who lived on the base. Veterans are also eligible for disability compensation for eight conditions presumed to be related to the contamination. Veterans hope a health registry would eventually expand coverage to more conditions.

More than 50,000 people have signed the petition.

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