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 July 28, 2014

News: U.S. has lost track of weapons given to Afghanistan - The United States supplied almost three quarter of a million weapons to Afghanistan’s army and police since 2004, but the military cannot track where many of those arms have gone, a new report found. Bill to improve VA has $17 billion price tag - A bipartisan...
 
 

News Briefs July 28, 2014

Marines seek authorization for dolphin deaths The Marine Corps is asking for a five-year authorization from the National Marine Fisheries Service for incidental deaths of bottlenose dolphins during training exercises at a bombing and target range. The Sun Journal of New Bern, N.C., reports that Connie Barclay of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says...
 
 
Army photograph by David Vergun

Senior leaders explain Army’s drawdown plan

Army photograph by David Vergun No commander is happy when notified that a soldier from his or her command has been identified for early separation. But commanders personally notify those Soldiers and ensure participation in th...
 

 

Northrop Grumman awarded mission support services contract

The U.S. Army awarded Northrop Grumman a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract, with a potential value of $205 million, to continue providing mission logistics services in support of combat brigades training at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif. The contract covers one base year and two one-year options. Support will include the full range of mission...
 
 
Lockheed Martin photograph by Beth Groom

F-35 Rollout Marks U.S.-Australia Partnership Milestone

Lockheed Martin photograph by Beth Groom Royal Australian Air Force Air Marshal Geoff Brown delivers his remarks at the roll out ceremony for Australia’s first F-35. The official rollout of the first two F-35 Lightning II...
 
 
NASA/JPL-Caltech image

NASA’s Mars spacecraft maneuvers to prepare for close comet flyby

NASA/JPL-Caltech image This graphic depicts the orbit of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring as it swings around the sun in 2014. On Oct. 19, the comet will have a very close pass at Mars. Its nucleus will miss Mars by about 82,000 m...
 




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>