Defense

July 12, 2013

Military burn pits may endanger health

Kevin Freking
Associated Press

A military camp in Afghanistan continues to use open-air burn pits to dispose of its solid wastes, potentially endangering the health of the nearly 13,500 people working there and violating the Pentagon’s own regulations and guidance, federal investigators say.

The Defense Department has said burn pits should only be used as a temporary last resort when no other alternative trash disposal method is feasible. Even then, at bases containing more than 100 personnel, burn pits are supposed to operate a maximum of 360 days. However, the burn pit at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan’s Helmand province continues to operate some five years after the camp was started, says John F. Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction.

The base could avoid using the burn pits altogether if the Pentagon were to make full use of four incinerators that cost $11.5 million to purchase and install, Sopko said.

ìThe toxic smoke from burning solid waste each day increases the long-term health risks for camp personnel, including reduced lung function and exacerbated chronic illness, ranging from asthma to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,î Sopko wrote to Gen. Lloyd J Austin, commander of U.S. Central Command, and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

The IG’s report is the second in the past four months citing the use of burn pits at a U.S. base in violation of Pentagon regulations. The previous report focused on a base near the Afghanistan border with Pakistan.

The Pentagon forwarded an Associated Press request for comment to public relations staff in Afghanistan, who had no immediate response.

An Institute of Medicine study requested by the Veterans Affairs Department concluded in 2011 that there was insufficient data to determine whether burn pit emissions had long-term health consequences. However, some U.S. personnel stationed near burn pits have complained that burn-pit exposure has led to a litany of medical problems. Sopko cited an April 15, 2011, Army memo stating that long-term exposure may increase the risk for developing chronic health conditions such as reduced lung function or chronic bronchitis.

Lawmakers have recently required the VA to establish a database that would monitor personnel stationed near burn pits to track any health issues and alert participants if major problems are detected.
A Government Accountability Office report has said waste disposed in burn pits may consist of plastics, food, discarded electronics, pallets, mattresses, clothing, tires and metal containers. Officials have calculated that there are about eight pounds of waste each day for each person at a military base.

The inspector general’s report for Camp Leatherneck indicated that investigators visited the camp three times in April and May. Two 12-ton incinerators were used sparingly, while two larger ones were never used. While contractors said during the last inspection that the larger incinerators would be operational in three weeks, they were still not operational as of July 2, according to the report.

Burn pits were relied upon heavily during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly in the earliest years of the wars. The military has cited expediency as the major factor as incinerators or landfills may not have been readily available, especially when a base has just opened.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines August 28, 2014

News: After F-15 jet crash in Virginia, rescue helicopters search for pilot - Helicopters are searching for an Air National Guard pilot after his F-15 jet crashed in the mountains of Virginia this morning, military officials said.   Business: U.S. Air Force 3DELRR contract expected soon - The U.S. Air Force could award the contract for its...
 
 

News Briefs August 28, 2014

Russian directing new offensive in Ukraine The Obama administration believes Russia is leading a new military counteroffensive in Ukraine. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki says Russia has sent additional columns of tanks and armored vehicles into its neighbor’s territory. She says the incursions suggest a ìRussian-directed counteroffensive is likely underway in the contested e...
 
 
LM-C5

Double Deuce

A U.S. Air Force crew ferried the 22nd C-5M Super Galaxy from the Lockheed Martin facilities in Marietta, Ga., Aug. 25. Aircraft 86-0011 was ferried by a crew led by Maj. Gen. Dwyer L. Dennis, Director, Global Reach Programs, O...
 

 
Northrop Grumman photograph

First ever RQ-4 Global Hawk hits 100th flight on NASA mission

Northrop Grumman photograph A historical look at the first Global Hawk (AV1) during its maiden flight over Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on Feb. 28, 1998. AV1 has made history again with its 100th flight in support of NASA en...
 
 

Northrop Grumman’s CIRCM system completes U.S. Army flight testing

Northrop Grumman’s Common Infrared Countermeasures system recently completed another round of U.S. Army testing by demonstrating its capabilities on a UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter. The flight test was conducted at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala., by the Redstone Test Center. The Northrop Grumman CIRCM system was subjected to rigorous conditions over a six-week period, after...
 
 
NASA photograph by David Olive

NASA completes successful battery of tests on composite cryotank

https://www.youtube.com/embed/qkGI6JeNY0E?enablejsapi=1&rel=0 NASA photograph by David Olive One of the largest composite cryotanks ever built recently completed a battery of tests at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Cen...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>