BURN PITS – WHERE THERE’S SMOKE, THERE’S . . .

Burn Pits – Where There’s Smoke, There’s . . .
One Woman’s Opinion – Part 2
By – Sheri de Grom

Soldier on Patrol Breathing Toxins From Burn Pit

Soldier on Patrol Breathing Toxins From Burn Pit

The Office of the Inspector General reported July 11, 2013, that trash burning continues at one of the largest U.S. military bases in Afghanistan.

I reported on this tragedy in my blog of June 9, 2013, and you may read it here.

Camp Leatherneck is home to about 13,500 troops and civilians and is located in the Helmand providence of Afghanistan.

The American taxpayer has spent $11.5 million installing four incinerators to safely dispose of solid waste. Burn pits are still utilized at Camp Leatherneck, placing all in harm’s way.

In my previous post, I wrote of the contractor, KBR, Inc., of Houston, Texas, formerly a wholly-owned subsidiary of Halliburton. KBR, Inc. argued their responsibility was to continue the standard of application the military provided. The over-site contractor has allowed KBR, Inc. to continue daily operation using this philosophy as if nothing had changed.

Unfortunately, nothing has changed, with the exception of more troops being diagnosed with the chronic debilitating illness known as Chronic Multisymptom Illness (CMI).

You’ll find the environmental safety requirements of KBR, Inc. here.

The Inspector General found all of the solid waste now burning in the pits could be

Active Burn Pit

Active Burn Pit

processed by the camp’s existing incinerators if they operated eighteen hours a day. The incinerators could also eliminate the need for a $1.1 million contract for hauling solid waste off the base.

Camp Leatherneck is not the only military base with burn pit problems. Burn pits have been used universally from the beginning of the Iraq war and continue today.

A leaked memo revealed an eight-year study based on a preventative medicine team’s findings on the dangers of the air quality at Bagram Airfield. The leaked memo stated that as late as May 22, 2012, their measurement revealed contaminants exceeding healthy standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A report by McClatchy Washington Bureau reported open air burning is used only to dispose of non-hazardous material and is monitored closely to prevent risks to those who live and work on the bases.

I’m delighted to have received notification from four service members after I posted my initial blog on the Burn Pits. Additional information has been verified by the soldiers serving on the ground in Afghanistan as well as two soldiers currently being evaluated for diseases known to be caused by working and breathing the smoke produced by the burn pits.

I’ve learned demilitarization operations at Bagram continue in ways the American public will never hear about. Our soldiers are being told to cut up armored vehicles into certain size pieces that don’t allow the enemy to reassemble the vehicle. The process involves using plasma cutters which is toxic to inhale, the personnel doing the cutting need to wear a re-breather or they will have serious injury or possibly death.

During the investigation on the use of the burn pits I considered many angles of why our government continues to endanger so many service members and department of defense employees along with contractors. I definitely hadn’t considered conspiracy until one of the service members raised the issue.

Now that we’ve lived through so many useless days and nights with a congress and president that cannot work together on anything except shutting down the government, perhaps we do need to look at the possibility of a conspiracy theory.

We continue to ask our service members to not only be in harm’s way with the war but they also must breathe contaminated air.

Please join me for Part 3 of Burn Pits – Where There’s Smoke, There’s . . . My research continues.

Photo credits: (1) DOD (2) Wikipedia

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About Sheri de Grom

Retired Fed/JAG, 5 yrs. on Capitol Hill. Former book buyer for B and N. Concerned citizen of military drawdown. Currently involved in mental healthcare reform, health care strategist and actively pursuing legislative change wherein dual retirees are exempt from enrolling in Medicare at their own discretion without losing tertiary healthcare benefits. Monitor and comment on Federal Register proposed legislation involving Mental Health, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Medicare and rural libraries. Licensed OSHA Inspector to include Super Fund sites. Full time caregive to Vietnam era veteran. Conceptualized, investigated possible alternatives, authored, lobbied for, and successfully implemented Title X, Section 1095 (known as the Third Party Collection Program of Federal Insurance).
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33 Responses to BURN PITS – WHERE THERE’S SMOKE, THERE’S . . .

  1. jbw0123 says:

    Burns me up too! Thanks for your research on this, and getting the word out there.

    • There will be more. I rant and rage each time I receive another note from a soldier in the midst of fighting this raging war. The administration can say whatever they want but it appears we’ll still be defending ourselves as they back our men and women into the cargo planes that will bring them home. Life is so bad for them and the burn pits are only getting worse. This war is the first time we’ve tried to bring any of our equipment home. Apparently the Pentagon has actually listened to the logistics experts – we cannot leave our equipment behind or it will be used against us. We haven’t brought anything (much) home since the Korean war. Thanks for letting me go on and on!

  2. Thank you, Sherri. I had no idea our soldiers were put into yet another danger.

    • Yes, thank you for stopping in and commenting. Our soldiers are breathing toxic air and we’ve only begun to scratch the surface when it comes to the deadly diseases the chemical filled smoke contains. I thought I’d only have one blog regarding this topic but I see now we have far too many secrets being unreported. The people of the United States have no idea what’s going on nor do many actually in the military. What do you think are the prospects of President Obama encouraging his daughters to consider the military as a career choice?

  3. Sheri I’m forever amazed at the things I find out on your blog that we we’re never aware of. This is a shameful tragedy! But my eyes are beginning to open to my governments abuse! My nephew was severely injured in Afghanistan serving his country proudly, he sat in an Afghanistan Hospital with such poor medical conditions that he called his mother, my sister-in-law and begged her to get him out of there before he lost his leg or worse infection set in, killing him. When she contacted the proper channels, they told her that Wesley would have to pay for a ticket to get back to the states or she could! Each and every day I’m hearing more and more tragic stories like his and like this post you’ve put up! When will the government wake up and do right by it’s most honorable servants to the people of the United States…the military! Our protectors…our brothers & sisters!!!

    • I apologize for the late response. I appreciate your stopping in to read with me and you are so correct in the fact that our military does take the brunt of improper medical care. The burn pits have been going on since the beginning of Iraq and tax dollars built the equipment necessary to handle the problem correctly. The equipment stands idle while our soldiers continue to breathe the toxic air. The diseases being discovered as a result of breathing the air are life threatening and we’ve already lost a number of veterans (interesting that the number is classified).
      It continues to sadden me beyond mere tears discovering a Hospice Unit where I helped clear up some red-tape recently, had more veterans under the age of 40 (the ratio 4 to 1 in a 60 bed facility) than any other single category. There’s something wrong with this picture.

  4. Maxima says:

    Easter is a promise of joy and renewal
    May this one before us
    Marks a new beginning
    Of happiness, love and prosperity.
    Wishing you a Happy Easter!
    With love Maxima

  5. When young men and women stop enlisting, maybe we’ll learn to value our troops. This is horrible.

    • Renee: Yes, we are killing the back-bone of America. When you consider that only 1% of the eligible population base volunteered to protect the United States, that’s a slim margin. Many of today’s enlisted couldn’t find a job so they joined the military and a family of 3 is immediately below the National Poverty Level. I find it an embarrassment to the United States that anyone in the military has to depend on their local food pantry. Most bases run their own self-help locations for most anything a military family needs but then I have to consider how far many live from a nearby base in today’s war.

  6. Ileana says:

    Fie ca sfanta sarbatoare a invierii domnului sa-ti aduca cele 4 taine divine: incredere, lumina, iubire, speranta. Clipe de neuitat alaturi de cei dragi si numai realizari! O seara binecuvanata alaturi de familie! http://i1024.photobucket.com/albums/y301/Petilea_Noidoi/1656_sarb_zps1aa10bf9.jpg
    May the holy feast of the Resurrection bring you divine mysteries 4: reliable, light, love, hope. Unforgettable moments with your loved ones and only achievements! An evening with family blessings!

  7. This is a terrible injustice for our troops. The greedy govt. contractors who put profit ahead of our troops health ought to have to tend those pits personally.

    • Hello, John: I’d like to see the contractors pay for the medical care our veterans now require because of the diseases this environmental abuse creates. Men and women are dying before their VA claims can be adjudicated for treatment of horrendous, painful deaths. Because the troops make it back to the United States alive, the families left behind no longer have the ‘killed in action’ life insurance benefits. Actually, the families don’t get much of anything. Additionally, the veterans that do survive, I believe the contractor should be responsible for paying all medical and disability care. We have a serious case of contractual abuse and non-contractual over-site by the government’s contracting officer.

      • I am going to write to my senator and congressman about this issue, and I urge all who read this blog to do the same. Your post will quickly bring them “up to speed.”

        • John – Thank you for doing what’s right for the soldiers and their families. My elected officials are sick and tired of hearing from me. I also call their offices, both locally and in DC, and ask to be put on record regarding whatever issue I’m talking about at the time. Politicians like to think I’m going to move away soon and of course that’s what ‘used’ to happen. However, now that I’m retired, they are used to my showing up in their doorway with a long list of grievances. I also stay in touch with politicians still in office that I had contact with way back when. Now that I’m retired from the government, I can participate in ‘Think Tanks’ if that were something I really wanted to do, but at the present time, I’m happy to be on the outside looking in.

  8. OMG, Sheri … is there no end to the danger we put our troops in for the sake of expediency? Lazy and shoddy practices that put our men and women in the military in harm’s way continue to burden an already over-burdened system. Thanks once more for your continued battle to bring these matters into the foreground and shine a light on them. Sad it is that most of the time the system wiggles through the system like so many worms );

    • Florence – I think the contractor has become bigger than any worms I’ve met in my life. We have gross miss-appropriation of tax-payers money for a process that’s sending our troops home to us literally dead on their feet. I’m sure you remember the government’s denial of Agent Orange – well we have the same situation with the burn pits. The burn pits kill the human being faster than agent orange but it’s as painful and attacks the human body at all levels. The issue I’m really having a hard time with, other than the practice continues, is that the government has a fix to the problem in place and no one has ever fired up the operation to see if it works properly. There goes more tax money spent that was developed for this purpose and then never used. As always, I love receiving your opinion on these issues I post that I can’t hold onto any longer. The issues that are destroying our country faster than we can keep up with it.

  9. ksbeth says:

    this is an absolute travesty, sheri. these brave souls should be treated as heroes and not as machines. thank you for bringing this story to light.

    • Beth – Our policymakers have never had much respect for our military and they have a tendency to treat them as if they are replaceable. The prez and congress seem to have forgotten that every life lost, damaged or left behind is someone’s husband, son, father, brother, best friend and the list marches on. The only thing anyone seems to be interested in is cutting the military budget. Most of the regulation mask used by the troops are provided by their families.

  10. Anonymous says:

    This is so unbelievably horrifying if anything these personnel should be treated as heroes for their time and service instead of being used up as expendable workhorses. Thank you for bringing this story to light.

  11. gpcox says:

    This type of activity is totally unacceptable. I would like to know just how to get our “fearless” leader to comment or even try to act on this problem. This type of harm to our men is beyond criminal, totally reprehensible!

    • G.P.: Indeed it is. Instead of giving speeches written by someone else, I’d like to know if the ‘man’ even has an opinion on anything. What happened to, ‘Do No Harm.’

      • gpcox says:

        I don’t know and this has me riled.
        I hope Tom is feeling good today and the veterans are still reading. I wish I could hear what suggestions they would give me to make it more enjoyable for them.
        Take care of yourself once in awhile, Sheri!
        GPCox

        • G.P. – The veterans will read and listen and read again every blog of yours they can get their hands on. Of course the trained volunteers know how to set everything up and ‘you are on the big screen’ the first and second time around. They particularly enjoy pictures and that always leads to lively discussions. The roll call also brings back both fun and not so fun journeys into a world we’ll never know. Tom and I are behind in our reading and hope to catch up soon. Sheri

  12. There are so many rules and regulations that military personnel must follow but when it comes to the health of those on the ground, all the rules and regs just go down the drain. What is wrong with the higher-ups? This is sickening.

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