RT News & The Associated Press & RT News – 2018-12-03 00:51:30
Toxic ‘Protection’: Chemical Release
Blamed on USAF Base in Germany
(November 25, 2018) — Rivers and ponds near a US airbase in Germany are increasingly polluted by a toxic chemical believed to cause cancer, RT Deutsch reveals. Some locals were reluctant to speak out as they feared losing their jobs at the site.
Located in an idyllic German countryside, this US Air Force base in Spangdahlem is steadily becoming the main source of trouble for local residents, RT Deutsch reveals in an investigative report. It says that water and soil around the base is contaminated with perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), a kind of substance thought to cause cancer.
PFCs are usually found in firefighting foam which has been used during live fire exercises around Spangdahlem base, and its concentration in rivers and ponds is far higher than allowable standards, according to the investigation.
Speaking on camera, locals have been divided as to whether there is reason for concern.
“Many people here can complain about aircraft noise and the pollution that comes from above and contaminates the soil,” a local man told the crew, but another said there are “no disturbances” coming from the base.
Authorities tried to calm things down and told RT the number of cancer patients “did not increase significantly.” Also, an agency in charge of environmental protection told the reporter the toxins cannot damage residents’ health as sources of drinking water in the area are closed off for “economic reasons.”
Professor Eberhard Greiser of Bremen University explained to the channel that it is extremely difficult to prove that cancer develops in humans due to PFCs.
The assurances, however, were little comfort for people living near the base who suspect the hazardous substance has a devastating effect on their health. “No wonder that every second person has cancer,” a middle-aged woman said. “I also have cancer, as does my supervisor I work with.”
Some residents were reluctant to appear on camera, fearing they might lose their jobs at the base, which is one of the biggest employers in the area. Its local staff usually receive a housing allowance and decent benefits.
“A lot of people are working [there], a lot of Germans from the region are employed [at the base],” a man, who asked to remain anonymous, said. “We’d better tell nothing about it,” according to another man, whose friend explained: “He works there and we also have a job there.”
A woman, who also asked to hide her identity, says that she simply fears for the health of her child “as an increasing number of cancer cases” is emerging in the area.
As the investigation proceeded, RT found that it is extremely difficult to receive any information on toxin contamination from the base, let alone filing appeals. SGD Nord, a local water authority, directed inquiries to Germany’s Real Estate Agency (BImA), which formally owns the base. Other German agencies simply ignored requests for information, correspondent Maria Janssen, said.
Built in the 1950s, Spangdahlem evolved into a sizeable airbase, housing dozens of fighter and refueling aircraft, as well as numerous transport planes.
Spangdahlem is not the first overseas US base to cause unease among locals. Earlier in November, hundreds gathered around the Dal Molin base in Vicenza, Italy to protest the US military presence there. In Japan, protests against aircraft noise, dangerous incidents, and crimes committed by the Americans have drawn thousands of people in Okinawa and other locations.
At Least 126 Bases Report Water Contaminants
Linked to Cancer and Birth Defects Says DOD
Tara Copp / Military Times
(April 26, 2018) — The water at or around at least 126 military installations contains potentially harmful levels of perfluorinated compounds, which have been linked to cancers and developmental delays for fetuses and infants, the Pentagon has found.
In a March report provided to the House Armed Services Committee, the Pentagon for the first time publicly listed the full scope of the known contamination. The Defense Department identified 401 active and Base Closure and Realignment installations in the United States with at least one area where there was a known or suspected release of perfluorinated compounds.
These included 36 sites with drinking water contamination on-base, and more than 90 sites that reported either on-base or off-base drinking water or groundwater contamination, in which the water source tested above the Environmental Protection Agency’s acceptable levels of perfluorooctane sulfonate or perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as PFOS and PFOAs.
The man-made chemicals, which can be used to make items heat or water resistant, are found in everyday household, food and clothing items, even take-out food wrappers.
At military bases, however, they are concentrated in the foam used to put out aircraft fires.
Maureen Sullivan, deputy assistant secretary of defense for environment, safety and occupational health, said DoD has already made safety changes at affected bases, including installing filters and providing bottled water to families living there. It has also released the full list of installations, reported in a lengthy chart attached toward the end of the congressional report, and will be working with the Centers for Disease Control next year on a study of the potential long-term effects of exposure.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson was asked about the exposure this week on Capitol HIll, where she was testifying about the service’s fiscal 2019 budget needs.
“It’s an issue not just in New Hampshire, but at military installations across this country,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire. “We have 1,500 people who have been tested with elevated levels in the Portsmouth area, who are anxious about their future and their children’s future. And I know there are many people throughout the Air Force and our other military installations who share that concern.”
In all, 25 Army bases; 50 Air Force bases, 49 Navy or Marine Corps bases and two Defense Logistics Agency sites have tested at higher than acceptable levels for the compounds in either their drinking water or groundwater sources. Additionally, DoD tested 2,668 groundwater wells both on and in the surrounding off-base community and found that 61 percent of them tested above the EPA’s recommended levels.
In 2016 the EPA established a new, lower guideline for acceptable levels of PFOS or PFOA levels in water supplies: no more 70 parts per trillion. While the EPA did not make the guidelines enforceable, DoD decided to test all of its locations and work toward complying with the new standards.
It won’t be a quick fix, Sullivan said.
The first target for the department was to address the 36 direct drinking water sources that are contaminated and “cut off that human exposure as soon as possible,” Sullivan said. DoD was only able to do that quickly at the 24 locations where it manages the water supply.
At those locations it has installed filters at the water source or inside base housing, relocated water usage to another well, or provided alternate drinking water, such as water bottles, for personnel, Sullivan said.
For the other 12 drinking water sources, provided either by a contracted vendor or through the local utility, it’s a harder fix, because the EPA’s guidelines are not enforceable. For example, commercial airports and industrial sites also use the foam, which could impact a municipality’s drinking water, but it will be up to that municipality to determine if it will test and make fixes to comply with the EPA’s guidelines, Sullivan said.
“It’s up to the owner of that system to make a decision on what they’re going to do,” Sullivan “So we’re on a fine line of trying to provide drinking water to our folks when we’re buying it from somebody else.”
In those cases the department is working with the vendors or utilities on a solution, and providing bottled water or filters as needed, Sullivan said.
Each base should have its water information posted, Sullivan said. Families with any concerns should be able to go to the base’s restoration program manager â€” an on-site point person tasked with addressing environmental cleanup issues â€• with their questions.
DoD has already spent $200 million studying and testing its water supply, and also providing either filters, alternate wells or bottled water to address contamination.
For the groundwater sources, both on-base and off-base, however, cleanup will take years to address, Sullivan said. Those groundwater sites will be added to the department’s long list of environmental cleanup responsibilities it has at each of its more than 2,900 facilities around the world, and will prioritize that cleanup based on risk. Sullivan estimates the groundwater perfluorinate cleanup will add about $2 billion to the $27 billion previously identified cleanup projects for which the department is responsible.
The services are also phasing out the firefighting foam they use and working on replacements that do not contain perfluorinated compounds, Sullivan said.
Air Force Won’t Pay for Towns’ Water Contamination Costs
The Associated Press
(July 31, 2017) — The Air Force doesn’t plan to reimburse three Colorado communities for the money spent responding to water contamination caused by toxic firefighting foam previously used at a military base, potentially leaving the towns with an $11 million tab.
UK Man Sues US Army after Being Unknowingly
Exposed to Toxic Dust in German Base
(August 6, 2018) — A defiant UK worker who was unknowingly exposed to toxic carcinogenic dust at a US Army base in Germany told RT how his employers’ reluctance to cover medical check-ups made him fight for justice and take the Army to court.
David Wright Patterson, a British man who said he was exposed to cadmium dust — a substance that could cause cancer if inhaled — at the US Army camp in Dulmen, Germany, told RT that workers were given no protective gear and wear while he oversaw the cleaning of 50 boxes of contaminated equipment for ten days back in 2017. Even more, it took over a year before the army sent a formal notice saying the boxes they were working on were contaminated.
“On inspection we found powder, very-very fine dust powder,” Paterson recalled. “When we opened it up, it became airborne. So in a couple of minutes, from head to feet, I was covered with this white powder, a bit like talcum powder.”
Several days later, he continued, he and his team were invited to another warehouse where they were told to clean the boxes “from top to bottom, inside out.” And that is how they started cleaning the packaging “without any training or information, without any knowledge of the danger.”
Almost a year after, in March 2018, Paterson received some paper saying the equipment he was working on was covered by a hazardous substance. “In this paperwork it said: ‘Do not touch, do not go near, do not prepare or clean this equipment without any safety measures, masks, gloves’.” The notification had clearly said it was cadmium dust, a carcinogenic, Paterson explained.
Anxious, he investigated the matter only to found out the warning referred to the same equipment he dealt with. “We knew nothing, they knew nothing . . . There was no information coming from my superiors, my employers — nothing until we did a full investigation.”
Paterson was employed by a UK-based recruiting firm M&E Global which has a contract with URS AECOM, a subcontractor for US Army.
What struck him afterwards was the army’s failure to notify workers of life-threatening conditions they found themselves in. “This was the first time we got information on what we were dealing with and what we were touching. One year after we’d cleaned the boxes!” Paterson said.
After the notification landed on his desk, the man consistently tried to raise matters with his bosses, but his requests hit their deaf ears. “Their initial reaction . . . I couldn’t believe it. I have it in black-and-white. Their reaction was: ‘Yeah . . . well. . . whatever . . . we’ll get back to you’,” Paterson revealed. “I have to chase them on daily [basis] and ask what happened.”
Earlier this year, the US military acknowledged the workers were exposed to cadmium dust but said the items were “incorrectly cleaned in a single section of a single warehouse by eight employees,” according to Col. Sean Kuester, commander for US Army Garrison Benelux.
The northwestern city of Duelmen is home to Tower Barracks, a former British military facility that was taken over by US Army Europe in 2016. While large in size, the compound has no doctor or paramedic, according to Paterson, who said he was sacked by M&E for blowing the whistle. “I asked them for assistance — they ignored me. I asked them advice on how to get to a specialist doctor about this carcinogenic powder that could be inside our lungs — not interested,” the worker added.
“They told me: ‘Whatever, go find a doctor and speak to your employer’.” Paterson had to take care of his health independently. He paid for a doctor and covered expenses for blood and lung tests completely on his own. What he expected US Army to do is arranging a full medical background check and medical assistance, Paterson told.
RT has reached M&E Global as well as AECOM and US Army Garrison Benelux, asking them to provide their take on the story, but received no response at the time of publication of this article.
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