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Touching Bases
The Newsletter of the Military Toxics Project
Fall 2004

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Youth and Community Leaders Connect

 


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MTP Still Going Strong in Tough Times

Tara Thornton
MTP Executive Director

Despite cutbacks in funding that have afflicted most non-profit organizations, MTP is still going strong!
MTP and the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) just finished development of a web-based interactive military toxics map. MTP is finishing up a new resource packet on the Clean Water Act and what groups can do about military water contamination issues. Within the month, MTP will unveil our new website, which we hope is far more user friendly and informative than our old website.

MTP has been actively involved in several coalitions this year, including the Be Safe Coalition (which supports a precautionary approach to prevent pollution and environmental destruction before it happens) and the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (working for an international treaty to ban depleted uranium munitions).

We have continued to support local groups on the ground through our Community Empowerment Program (CEP). For example, MTP helped facilitate a community vision summit in Vieques, PR; co-sponsored a Vieques solidarity conference in Washington, DC; supported member groups in San Antonio, TX developing a people's plan for cleanup; sent local leaders to Brussels, Begium and New Orleans, LA for national and international meetings; and brought grassroots leaders to Congressional offices on lobbying visits in Washington, DC and to foundations on fundraising visits in New York City.This year we have also initiated a strategic planning process and will have an in-person meeting to develop the long-term vision and direction for the Military Toxics Project. As always, it is important to MTP to involve all members in the strategic planning process. The Board and staff will interview all member groups over the next two months. MTP has learned from past surveys and evaluations that our efforts are most effective when we help communities help themselves and help local organizations network with other organizations facing similar problems. Grassroots networking and support will definitely remain the core of our work.

I am amazed when I think about all that MTP has accomplished the past two years even though our budget is tight and funding is slim. Major kudos go out to Steve Taylor, MTP's National Organizer (his official title, but it could also be Administrator, Webmaster, Computer Technician and all around trouble- shooter, to name a few)! Also to the MTP Board of Directors and to our loyal donors and foundations for sticking with MTP during a very difficult and trying time - THANK YOU!
In Peace and Solidarity,
Tara Thornton, Executive Director

 


Introducing MTP's Grassroots Board

 

To learn about MTP's current Grassroots Board of Directors, visit http://www.defendourhealth.org/board_and_staff.htm

 

 

What's in Your Water?

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is our nation's largest toxic polluter. Decades of military operations have poisoned rivers, lakes, and aquifers across the country. The true scope of military water pollution is not known, but there is evidence that the extent of the problem is truly massive.

Perchlorate - a constituent of military munitions, rockets, and missiles - has contaminated water at hundreds of locations in over 40 states. The vast majority of these sites are either military bases or defense contracting facilities. Over 20 million people receive their drinking water from sources known to be contaminated with perchlorate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently released a list of 66 DOD facilities with known perchlorate releases. DOD has resisted widespread sampling for perchlorate, so many military facilities have not been tested.

Fuels and solvents are the principal contaminants at as much as 60% of DOD sites. Over 850 chlorinated solvent sites exist at Navy and Marine Corps installations, and at least 600 to 900 solvent sites exist at Air Force bases. Thousands of Marines and their families drank water contaminated with solvents at Camp Lejeune, NC for years after the Corps knew about the problem. Solvent contamination was linked to abnormally low birth weights in babies born near Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma.

The extent of water contamination at military firing and training ranges has barely begun to be studied. DOD manages 8,087 training and firing ranges on 500 installations covering at least 24 million acres of land (not including offshore ocean ranges). According to EPA, at least 49 military facilities have contaminated groundwater, drinking water, or surface water with constituents of military munitions. Because DOD has not conducted widespread testing of water for munitions constituents, the scope of munitions contamination at DOD's ranges is likely much, much wider. One DOD study of the treatment of RDX (a toxic explosive compound) in groundwater noted that "there are 583 sites at 82 Army installations within 10 Major Army Commands (MACOMs) where groundwater contamination has been confirmed." DOD estimates that 16 million acres of land already transferred to other agencies or the public may contain unexploded ordnance (UXO) and toxic munitions constituents.
Just a few examples of DOD water contamination and community organizing to demand accountability follow.
Camp Pendleton, CA - The Marine Corps' failure to address massive sewage problems resulted in over 14,000 Clean Water Act violations in just two years. Local organizations were forced to file suit to force the Marines to correct the problem.

Vieques, PR - Navy bombing of Vieques resulted in over 100 Clean Water Act violations through August 1999, according to EPA. At least 20 toxic substances have been released into Vieques waters at levels in violation of the CWA. Widespread community resistance to all harmful aspects of the Navy's presence led to the end of bombing in May 2003.

Fort Richardson, AK - Over fifty years of firing munitions contaminated the fragile estuarine salt marsh of Eagle River Flats with white phosphorus and other toxic substances. The Army's refusal to address the toxic contamination and over 10,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance (UXO) caused local organizations to file a notice of intent to sue under the Clean Water Act and the CERCLA law in June 2001.

Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD - Toxic constituents of munitions have been found in groundwater and drinking water sources both inside and outside base property. Perchlorate contamination caused a town drinking water production well to be shut down.

Kelly Air Force Base, TX - Pollution from Kelly contaminated a shallow aquifer that base neighbors used to water their vegetable gardens. The contamination extends several miles under over 20,000 homes in primarily Latino neighborhoods. The Air Force has focused on passive "natural attenuation" methods to address the problem instead of actual cleanup.

Most cleanup actions at military facilities are forced by organized communities and state or federal regulators under RCRA (the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) or CERCLA (the Superfund toxic cleanup law). Both of these laws can require removal of toxins from groundwater and surface water. The Safe Drinking Water Act gives EPA strong emergency powers to force action by polluters - including the military - if contaminants threaten a source of drinking water and pose an imminent and substantial endangerment to the public. The Clean Water Act - which regulates pollution of water - can also limit toxic discharges to water. MTP has an extensive resource packet on the Safe Drinking Water Act and is preparing to release a new packet on the Clean Water Act. Contact our office at mtp@miltoxproj.org or (207) 783-5091 to request copies.

 

Burning PCBs Will Set Dangerous Precedent

By Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger

Badger Army Ammunition Plant is seeking an exemption to a federal law that prohibits open burning of waste materials containing more than 50 parts per million (ppm) of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs). PCB concentrations in paint in certain buildings at Badger have been detected as high as 22,000 parts per million - more than 400 times the permissible limit set by the EPA. No other military installation in the nation has been allowed to open burn PCB-contaminated wastes exceeding the federal limit of 50 ppm. If approved by EPA, the exemption will open the door for open burning of extraordinary levels of PCBs at Badger and other U.S. bases here and abroad.

What are PCBs and why are they in some paints?

PCBs were first manufactured in 1929. Due to their carcinogenic characteristics, the manufacture of PCBs was banned in 1978. There are 209 possible compounds or congeners of PCBs. Paint manufacturers used around 5 to 12 percent PCBs in paints as a plasticizer, primarily in specialty paints intended for industrial or military applications.

What happens when you burn PCBs?

Open burning results in the uncontrolled release of PCBs, dioxins, and other products of combustion to the environment. Both PCBs and dioxins are persistent in the environment and do not readily degrade. PCBs can travel long distances in the air (>10 miles) and deposit in areas far from where they were released. PCBs are taken up by small organisms, fish, and marine mammals, reaching levels that may be many thousands of times higher than the water itself.

Open burning of PCBs results in the formation of polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs). These compounds are probable human carcinogens and their toxicity can be up to 100 times higher than the toxicity of some PCBs.

About 90% of exposure to dioxins and furans is from eating contaminated food. Dioxins and furans typically build up in the fatty tissues of animals. This means that eating beef, pork, poultry, fish, and dairy products can be a source of exposure.

What are some of the potential health affects?

Human exposure to PCBs is a concern because of the wide range of adverse health effects including skin irritation, reproductive and developmental effects, immunologic effects, liver damage, and cancer. Some PCBs can mimic or block the action of hormones from the thyroid and other endocrine glands, affecting normal growth and development.

The developing fetus, infants, and children are the population groups most vulnerable to exposure. Exposure may impede the development of their brains, reproductive, immune, and endocrine systems. PCBs can be passed to the human fetus through the placenta and to the infant through breast feeding.

What are the risks specific to Badger?

The exact level of risk is still unknown. The EPA is currently gathering information to help answer this question.

How can the Army remove the PCBs and still protect human health?

Not burn. As this fact sheet has explained, thermal treatment not only causes an uncontrolled release of PCBs to the air and surrounding soils, it creates toxic by-products that can be 100 times more toxic than the PCBs themselves.

Examples of non-thermal technologies include chemical deactivation, biological deactivation, fluid penetration, ozone treatment, and robotic removal.

PCB contamination above 50 ppm is expected to be a concern in a small number of buildings, making alternative technologies, which are not easily implemented on a large scale, feasible.

What is the current status of Badger's proposal?

Any "person" wishing to dispose of PCB-contaminated wastes by a means OTHER than landfilling, incineration, high efficiency boiler, or other regulated disposal process, must apply in writing to the EPA Regional Administrator.

EPA is still in the information-gathering stage. The Army has not submitted a formal application for the exemption. EPA will issue a written approval if it finds that the method will "not pose an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment."

At least 100 buildings, and perhaps many more, are targeted for open burning. The burning, once given this final approval, will continue for approximately 10 years.

 

No Thoughts of the Future

By Vienna Merritt Moore
Say No to Fort Ord Toxic Burnings

In 1917, when Fort Ord Military Training Base was established, I doubt that there was much if any concern over the safety to the communities that would one day surround the base. Bazookas were launched and missiles with warheads deployed. For over eight decades, the ammunition needed for many wars was deposited on a once pristine coastal landscape. There are literally lakes of ammunition and pits where ordnance and explosives were dumped with no thoughts of the future.

The future is here and the Army is in the midst of a campaign to clean up Fort Ord in response to a feeding frenzy like land grab. Their cleanup technique - open burning! The Army has chosen to burn off vegetation on thousands of acres of highly contaminated firing ranges, a process that will release toxic substances from unexploded ordnance and contaminated plants into the air.

Most of us are aware that weapons are designed for killing and composed of materials that are hazardous to human health and the environment.

Would you be comfortable knowing that you were surrounded by hazardous waste, breathing it, consuming it with food or drinking it? The thought that our children could be inhaling it as they energetically bike ride or swing from jungle gyms at their schools is quite disturbing. According to the Army's own laboratory analysis the following materials enter the air during open burning and detonation: heavy metals, RDX, HMX, TNT, DDT, furans, dioxins and more.

Several planned open burnings have taken place, each one getting out of control, with the last on October 24, 2003. This fire burned three times the planned area, and took several days to put out and mop up.

"The Army blew it on this burn" said Congressman Sam Farr after the most recent inferno ended up with an unprecedented fumigation of the more affluent areas of Monterey, Pebble Beach and Carmel. Since his grandstanding request for a congressional review, his actions have dissipated but left no residue (unlike the toxic smoke). Fort Ord appears to be a microcosm of what Americans face with their top leaders and mainstream media. Our local government officials and our local media appear to be loyal to the Military Industrial Complex and oblivious to reason and science with no thoughts of the future.

The community has spoken out, armed with support from numerous public interest groups such as: Sierra Club, Central Coast Alliance on Health, Spreckels School District (had children sent to hospital) and others. William Mitchell, an EPA Division Chief for 30 years, officially commented that:

* Contaminated particulate (from burning) could be a very toxic material in itself and be a short and long term hazard to ... those living on the Monterey peninsula.

* The Army is misleading the public with emissions studies that Mitchell himself supervised.

* Alternatives that are safe, cost effective, and fast are being ignored.

Despite widespread public opposition, the Army marches forward with burning with no thoughts of the future.

For more information contact: Say NO to Fort Ord TOXIC BURNINGS! at 831-384-7658 or E-mail: Vs3trees@sbcglobal.net

 

Invisible DU

By Christine Ziebold, Twin Cities Philip Berrigan Depleted Uranium Group

The Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP) is an 1,100 acre government-owned contractor-operated manufacturing plant in Arden Hills, Minnesota, 8 miles north of downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis. It is Minnesota's largest Superfund site. Ironically, the original citizen complaint leading to TCAAP's listing on the National Priority List (NPL) in 1983 was that depleted uranium (DU) might contaminate a nearby lake and a water well. Yet DU never became what regulators call a "contaminant of concern". Therefore, we have the schizophrenic situation of the DU production site - building 502 - being part of the Superfund, but not its main product, DU. TCAAP was eventually listed on the NPL because of Trichlorethylene (TCE) contamination.

Alliant Techsystems (ATK), part of Honeywell before 1996, is a $2 billion aerospace and "defense" company, the US 's largest producer of anti-personnel landmines and cluster bombs. It manufactured 16 million armor penetrating 120 mm and unknown quantities of 30mm DU shells at TCAAP. These were shot in Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan. In the words of the Army, Alliant "performed a substantial DU ammunition manufacturing mission for the Army and Air Force from the 1950's through the early 1980's" (The Rad Waste News Vol2 (5) 1997 online at http://www.osc.army.mil/dm/DMWWEB/newsmay.htm#twin).

History

The first official evidence of Honeywell's DU use is from 1969, when the Atomic Energy Commission (today Nuclear Regulatory Commission or NRC) granted it a license to possess 2,700 lbs of uranium. Honeywell's NRC license was consistently amended to allow ever-larger quantities, including 750,000 Kg of DU, despite 5 documented violations.

The dates when DU production ceased vary between sources: Army 1985, NRC 1987, ATK 1988. The Army wrote it "placed the DU wing of Building 502 in mothball status" after that, without noting the reason. The title of a partially withheld NRC document shows that a worker complained to OSHA that mixed waste containing DU, wood and plastic in barrels of concrete had caused an explosion. Talking about wastes: The first NRC document concerning Honeywell and radioactive waste is from 1985, after 16 years of possessing DU and at least 10 years of production, when Honeywell asked for waste material containing quantities of polychlorinated biphenyl, heavy metals and DU to be classified as non radioactive. The Army finally wanted to dispose of six pieces of contaminated manufacturing equipment in 1993. The date coincides with citizens forming an "Arsenal Cleanup and Conversion Committee". During 1993-1996 the Army's "Headquarters Industrial Operations Command, Radioactive Waste Disposal Division" contracted with the Scientific Ecology Group in Oak Ridge, TN to dismantle, transport and dispose of over 500,000 lbs of contaminated government-owned manufacturing equipment. ATK made their own arrangement with SEG for equipment removal and by fall 1996 the DU wing of Building 502 was empty.

The RAB

Enter the Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) or not quite... In 1995 Army had denied a citizens petition for a RAB arguing that RAB's were only for closing bases. But in 1996, luck changed and a RAB was formed. Army dropped their plans to close TCAAP, decided to keep the West half open to "industrial operations" (Alliant only), but transferred the Eastern half to National Guard. From the beginning there were differences in opinion regarding the clean up: RAB community members argued that future residential use should guide the clean up, while Army fought for industrial cleanup goals to save money - and you know who wins on an advisory board. In 1997 a "Record of Decision" was signed, setting clean up goals for most everything but DU. The matter of DU contamination had completely escaped public attention. Yet during the same year Army representatives from HQ and ATK feverishly worked out a decommissioning plan for building 502, which was submitted to the NRC in August 1997.

I participated in weekly peace vigils in front of ATK's headquarters for almost 2 years before acting on the realization that there was a total public information deficit about ATK's DU operations. I joined monthly RAB meetings in 2002 only to comprehend that DU was never on the agenda. When I asked our RAB's EPA representative why, the first response I got was "it's just not part of Superfund". When I finally dared to ask why, he emailed that it was "not a contaminant of concern" and that there was no evidence of an environmental release.

Fact Finding

My investigation started as a fact-finding mission involving several federal agencies, as the state regulator had called me a troublemaker and accused me of defaming the RAB. From the beginning, I asked the Army commander for any surveys of DU in the environment. He referred me to NRC and did not send any, but thankfully a new and male RAB member received some. I eventually asked Army to start a publicly accessible administrative record on DU, but never received a response. Communication with NRC was extremely sluggish and basically not helpful, culminating in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. In August 2003, I wrote an 11 page petition to ATSDR requesting an updated public health assessment, as the last one was 9 years outdated. My request was denied. In December 2003, I wrote to EPA Region 5 Chief of the Federal Facilities Response Section requesting action on the evidence of environmental release of DU. He merely reiterated that there was "no reason to suspect a release of DU". I was referred to the administrative record, which according to EPA included 6 documents held by the Army. Some of the documents were not even present in the public document repository.

The Facts

Evidence of DU releases was right in the first EPA-recommended document I studied, a 1978 report by the US Army Toxic and Hazardous Materials Agency. It said: "The possibility for exceeding the limitations set by the Metropolitan Sewer Board exists once each month when the detention tank and sump system are flushed out with high pressure water. At this time, contaminants concentrated in the sludge would be dumped as a slug into the Metropolitan Sewer System." A 1979 Army Environmental Hygiene Agency document similarly stated that TCAAP's radioactive wastes were collected with the domestic wastewater and disposed of in the Metropolitan Sewer System. And the 1991 Final Remedial Investigation Report for TCAAP, by the Argonne National Laboratory, referred to an average 141 g DU discharge daily from January 5-13, 1981. Nevertheless, none of the soil samples of the DU room site were tested for uranium in the investigation. Groundwater monitoring for the site included metals, but not uranium, even though sewer integrity testing in 1980, 1983, and 1984 found that areas of the sewer were cracked, broken, or had missing segments. The site report said "available soils data are insufficient to adequately characterize the extent of gross alpha and beta activity in site soils." And "Additional investigations are needed."

Environmental Releases of DU

The amount of DU that went down the drain into the sewer system is staggering. Up until 1981, Honeywell asserted that "according to engineering judgment we are well within the requirements", but in 1981 they found that 2 Kg of DU were discharged into the sewer over 26 days. This estimate was adjusted upward to 8 lbs /month in 1991, and in 2003 these "operational losses" were still estimated to be roughly 100 lbs /year. When I confronted NRC with this evidence of a DU release for at least 8 years, NRC claimed that after the early 80's this practice was stopped.

The amount of solid DU waste generated is equally staggering. DU waste for just 3 1/2 years (1978-1982) was 3,736 drums. Only certain drum lots over a 16 month period were itemized, but extrapolating from these one can conservatively estimate that the total contained at least about 36,000 kg of DU waste.

Radionuclides were found outside of Building 502 in 1997. I found out that DU activities were not limited to one building, but that others were used for storage of the raw material, the finished weapons and the drums of waste. No assessment for radionuclides has been done at these buildings.

Public Interest in DU

I stated the legal definition of "environmental release" at a RAB meeting and went on record that I felt DU was an environmental problem and unduly kept off the agenda. Nothing happened. Meanwhile the City of Arden Hills, future buyer of TCAAP's western portion in an "early land transfer", became nervous about the unclear radionuclide situation.

An EPA headquarters person visited Arden Hills in January 2004 and told a stunned audience of about 100 citizens "how EPA defers to NRC in regard to radioactive contamination at Superfund sites". Letters from Arden Hills and a U.S. Representative to the NRC produced reassurances not action. Finally NRC staged a one-time public relations appearance at Arden Hills City Hall on March 31, 2004. Four senior camera-ready NRC employees from NRC Region III and headquarters framed and controlled the show in all aspects. It was embarrassingly obvious to RAB members and other citizens that NRC dodged around facts and basically said "Trust us".

Media coverage of these and other TCAAP events has been sparse. Only the small weekly newspapers have faithfully sent their reporters to the meetings and critically reported. At least "radionuclides" is now a word in a few people's consciousness. Did I mention that ATK relocated? Their headquarters are still here, but production moved where there are less questions asked by citizens and legislators. This sorry history may be over soon. Any DU cleanup at TCAAP is likely complete with the impending land transfer to Ramsey County.

 

Report of the Strategy Meeting on Indigenous Peoples & Militarization

By Kelly Dietz

An international strategy meeting for Indigenous communities confronting military bases, training exercises and other forms of militarization was held on July 20, 2004, at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting was hosted by the Association of Indigenous Peoples in the Ryukyus (Okinawa) and the Shimin Gaiko Centre as a side event during the 22nd UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations (WGIP).

With the main theme of this year's WGIP conflict resolution, it was a timely opportunity to focus on the often ignored day-to-day violence of sustained military presence and on how such violence disproportionately impacts Indigenous communities and violates Indigenous rights. Holding the strategy meeting during the WGIP, moreover, allowed for a focus on problems of militarization as they relate to the right of self-determination. While militarization takes many forms - the effects of which differ depending on particular circumstances and histories - the underlying issue connecting the Indigenous participants in this particular meeting is that the problems they face as a result of militarization of their territories are rooted in persistent, institutionalized discrimination and denial of their communities' fundamental right to self-determination as a people.

Participants in the strategy meeting included Indigenous representatives from communities confronting military forces of the colonizing state and/or the military forces of US or other foreign governments. Also participating were representatives from international NGOs supporting Indigenous rights, human rights and working on militarization issues.

The initial aims of the meeting were to (1) establish and strengthen ties among Indigenous communities facing similar circumstances and problems as a result of militarization of their territories; (2) begin exchanging information about particular struggles; and (3) discuss how individuals and organizations can join together to support one another's struggles and strengthen the existing global network of Indigenous peoples (and their supporters) fighting against the siting of military bases and other forms of militarization.

In light of the feedback from many participants, the meeting clearly generated a lot of enthusiasm about creating an active, transnational network that will focus on the particular problems of Indigenous peoples confronting militarization. The discussions demonstrated strong interest in the potential benefits of a transnational network that will build concretely on the efforts and successes of existing local movements. Participants also expressed interest in building something more than a network based on just an exchange of organization names and contact information. The ideas that emerged suggest a network based on an ongoing exchange of detailed information and concrete actions.

Many ideas emerged from the strategy meeting about how to build an effective transnational network (logistically and otherwise) and how to disseminate information to AND mobilize active support from the global public. Taking advantage of the wealth of experience that meeting participants have had at the international level, many ideas also emerged regarding how to effectively use international agencies and mechanisms, and how to advance the issue of militarization and Indigenous peoples within the UN and other international fora. These ideas are summarized below.

Outcomes of the meeting include general agreement to: (1) create an Action Alert; (2) work towards building a web site that would function as a sort of "clearinghouse" of information related to Indigenous communities facing militarization; (3) create a mailing list to exchange information and ideas; and (4) to take advantage of future regional and international meetings by holding side meetings on militarization, possibly working towards holding an international workshop or conference dedicated to Indigenous peoples and militarization. These initiatives are explained in more detail below.

It is also worth noting that, although there was not time to draft a joint statement or resolution in the strategy meeting, according to participants, this side event appeared to have positive reverberations on the WGIP itself. Militarization and specifically the problems related to sustained presence of military bases were increasingly highlighted in organizations' statements as well as some joint statements. Among the recommendations submitted to the WGIP were calls to designate militarization as a main theme of a future WGIP meeting and of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and to have the Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Issues take up the issue.

As the meeting organizers, we only regret the limited time we had together. In particular, we would have liked to spend more time sharing specific experiences of militarization in order to get a better sense of which communities have which problems in common. As this meeting was primarily a strategy meeting, however, we made the tough decision to use the bulk of the time to brainstorm about how to work collectively.

The meeting's organizers welcome any suggestions you may have about the ideas that came out of the meeting. For more information on the Strategy Meeting on Indigenous Peoples and Militarization, contact Kelly Dietz at kld18@cornell.edu or Nariko Omine of the Association of Indigenous Peoples in the Ryukyus, at narikomine@yahoo.com. For more information on the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations, visit http://www.unhchr.ch/indigenous/groups.htm

Note: This article is exempted from a much longer report on the meeting. To obtain a copy of the full report, email Kelly Dietz at the address listed above. Touching Bases readers may also be interested in the international No U.S. Bases email discussion list. To learn more about the list, contact Herbert Docena at herbert@focusweb.org with a short description of your community/organization and/or of your work.

 

Act to Stop Uranium Weapons

The Military Toxics Project, a member of the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW), supports the International Day of Action to ban uranium weapons on November 6, 2004. Communities around the globe will participate by having events and actions coincide with the United Nations International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict. As we go to print with this edition of MTP's newsletter, activities have already been planned in Belgium, England, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and the United States. Planned events include petition drives, lobbying visits, symposiums, photo exhibits and marches. MTP will serve as the ICBUW Day of Action coordinator in the US. If you would like to organize an event or participate in one already planned, or if you need more information, visit www.bandepleteduranium.org or contact the MTP office.

What you can do:

Sign the International Petition to ban uranium weapons. The Online Petition Campaign has started on the ICBUW website!!! Just click the "petition" on the site and you will find it. Please sign it yourself right away and urge your friends to do so, too. This petition campaign will continue until the realization of an international treaty banning uranium weapons, but ICBUW's first deadline is February 15, 2005, so that they can appeal to the EU Parliament or to NGO's involved the UN Disarmament Committee to be held in Geneva next spring. (Visit www.bandepleteduranium.org for a downloadable petition form.)

Urge your Congressperson to support Representative Jim McDermott's HR 1483, the Depleted Munitions Study Act. H.R. 1483 would require studies to determine the health effects of exposure to depleted uranium, and require cleanup at sites of DU munitions production and use in the US. Ask your Senator to offer a companion bill in the Senate. For more information on this or other legislative initiatives, visit the Library of Congress Website at http://thomas.loc.gov and search by bill number or sponsor.

Call for an end to the DU transportation exemption. The Depleted Uranium Munitions Action Plan is a national and international effort to stop the renewal of a special U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) exemption, DOT-E 9649, which allows the shipment of depleted uranium munitions without a "Radioactive" placard displayed on the shipment. The Department of Defense (DOD) first applied for the exemption in 1986 when they became aware that the shipment and use of radioactive munitions would become a controversial issue. The exemption must be renewed every two years by the DOD and was scheduled to be renewed on June 30, 2004. As this newsletter went to press the exemption had not yet been renewed. The complete action plan is posted at
http://www.traprockpeace.org/du_mun_action_plan.pdf.

Oppose New Uranium Conversion Facilities. In July, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued two Records of Decision (RODs) for construction and operation of Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride (DUF6) Conversion Plants at DOE's Kentucky and Ohio gaseous diffusion plants.

Currently, DUF6 is stored on-site at Paducah, Ohio; Portsmouth, Ky.; and Oak Ridge, Tenn. These three sites were home to gaseous diffusion plants where uranuium was enriched for use in nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants. The Oak Ridge DUF6 inventory (by-product of enrichment) is being moved to the Portsmouth facility for conversion. All three sites are heavily contaminated and area residents living next to the proposed conversion facilities are concerned that they will now be home to another polluting industry. Copies of the ROD are available on the DUF6 Management Information Network Website: http://web.ead.anl.gov/uranium/documents

Support radiation-exposed workers. The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICP), a program to aid former nuclear workers, has been a disaster and must be fixed. The law promised each worker or their survivors $150,000 for illnesses caused by radiation exposure, calling on the Department of Labor to pay out benefits, with the Energy Department providing support for the process along with assistance to workers and families in pursuing claims. Applications for the two programs have topped 70,000 and fewer than half of the applications have been completed.For more information, please visit the National Nuclear Workers for Justice Website at http://www.nnwj.com.

Support the troops. Call for an immediate ban on the use of DU in Iraq. All veterans returning from Iraq that may have been exposed to DU must be tested for depleted uranium exposure by an independent lab. If found positive, veterans and their families should be compensated. Also support initiatives such as Congressman Lane Evans' H.R. 4172-introduced in April 2004. HR 4172 would amend Title 38, US Code, to codify certain additional diseases as establishing a certain presumption of service-connection when occurring in veterans exposed to ionizing radiation.

 

Roxbury Says No Way

By Jack Tobin
Alternatives for Community and Environment

In the Spring of 2003, Boston residents were taken aback when they first learned that Boston University (BU) had submitted an application to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) for funds, provided through the National Institute of Health's defense budget, to construct a Level-4 Biocontainment Laboratory in the Roxbury / South End area of the city. Since there had been no community input and since BU was falsely claiming it had community support, concerned residents of the to-be-affected area began to form a coalition under the aegis of Safety Net, a sub-group of Alternatives for Community & Environment (ACE).

Surprise turned to opposition after a public meeting on May 12, 2003, when BU presented its plans, rejected community concerns, and refused to respond in depth to questions. Opposition to the lab has grown into a wide-spread coalition of local residents, members of organizations devoted to peace and social justice, and scientists, many from Boston's suburbs. After all, the dangers presented by the lab certainly extend beyond the few miles to Boston's borders.

Over the next several months, the coalition tried, over and over again, without success, to engage BU in dialog and get BU to present hard facts. While BU claims it has participated in a large number of public forums, the standard approach in such meetings was for BU to present its sketchy arguments, laced with half-truths, disingenuous statements, and outright falsehoods (lies, that is), and then refuse to answer questions and objections - except with further half-truths, disingenuous statements, and outright falsehoods (lies, that is).

Despite the coalition's efforts, including letters to NIAID and various public officials, BU's proposal was accepted and, in September, 2003, BU was awarded $127 million to construct the lab. With the $127 million and expectations for an additional $2.9 billion to come to the facility over the next 20 years, BU continued refusing to deal truthfully with the community. Some examples of BU's dishonesty include:

- Dr. Mark Klempner's (BU's lead person for the project) telling Boston City Council members that the Freedom of Information Act had prevented BU from making public its grant application, a statement flatly contradicted NIAID:

- A statement on BU's web site which says "The facility will be owned, operated, and managed by Boston University Medical Center . . . ." BU's grant was to construct the facility; the lab's operator will be chosen after further proposals are submitted. NIAID will control the lab's research for the first 20 years.

Klempner has repeatedly denied that classified research will be conducted at the lab but, with NIAID in charge, there is no way he can know whether his statement is true. While NIAID does not ostensibly support classified research, the question as to whether it might ever do so was answered by one of its senior program officers: "If I could predict the future, I wouldn't be in this job." An official NIAID document states; ". . . it is anticipated that all research carried out in the facility will be published and communicated in the same manner as other research at the NIH."

One of BU's particularly disingenuous statements (from its web site) is, "In more than 77 combined years of operation, there has never been a community incident or environmental release at the five BSL-4 laboratories in North America." Were one to say there has never been a reported case, there could be little argument. But though there may not have been a documented release, there have been serious problems:

- the anthrax which killed several people in September of 2001 was assuredly taken from the Level-4 lab at Ft. Detrick;

- in 2003, a researcher "pricked herself with an Ebola-tainted needle . . . and spent most of February in quarantine . . . ."

- while technically only a Level-3 lab, Plum Island (which conducts animal experiments) was considered for classification as Level-4 as long ago as the Nixon presidency. The fact that the first recorded case of Lyme disease occurred within spitting distance of the dock which was the Long Island terminus for boats from Plum Island and that the first U.S. case of West Nile virus occurred in New York at least hints of release problems.

BU's arguments that the lab would provide 1,300 construction jobs and 600 permanent jobs are equally disingenuous. BU has said it will "aim for" half of the construction jobs to go to Boston residents. Obviously, that is far from a guarantee. But BU carefully avoids noting that, were the lab not built, other construction has already been approved for the site. So it's not a case of 1,300 vs. nothing, but of 1,300 vs., an indeterminate figure. There, is furthermore, no breakdown as to the numbers of types of jobs. There may well be 600 permanent jobs (vs. how many if the lab is not built?), but these jobs will not go to the people of Roxbury or the South End. These will be high-tech and professional jobs which will go to people who are not now residents of Boston and whose employment will only lead to further gentrification of the area.

That concern for the people of Boston is furthest from the minds of those proposing the lab is most clearly stated by Jonathan King, Professor of biology at MIT: "the location of a high risk bioterrorism facility in a densely populated area violates all standards and experience for siting such facilities in a manner that protects the public health and welfare." NIAID is planning to construct a Level-4 lab in Hamilton, Montana because release of pathogens in that area would have less of an impact on people.

Former State Representative and South End resident Mel King stated that "It is obscene to spend hundreds of millions of our tax dollars on bioterror, when we have more than 50,000 children in Massachusetts without health insurance and state funding was eliminated for school nurses." And Congressman Dennis Kucinich said that "The construction of the bioterror lab, while providing little to no benefit to the residents of Roxbury and South End, threatens the health of residents by potentially poisoning the air they breathe and the water they drink. The money used to construct this facility could be better spent on funding public health for low income communities like this one. It has always been my priority to restrict wasteful spending on weapons and weapons research in favor of initiatives that improve the quality of life ordinary Americans . . . ." Why build a lab which ". . .will drain the parent NIH research budgets for decades to come, stealing money sorely needed elsewhere in biology research"?

Why, indeed. Because of what it will do for BU's prestige. BU's interim president, Aram V. Chobanian, says that the lab "will make us more competitive. In the areas we're talking about [infectious diseases] it will make us the leading institution."

Jack Murphy, who will be one of the chief researchers if the lab is built, and who cannot guarantee a pathogen couldn't escape from a facility operated by human beings, says it is a matter of "risk and benefit." Klare Allen, Community Organizer for ACE, says if construction begins on the lab next summer, "the only thing we can do is put our bodies in front of the bulldozer."

For more information on community resistance to the proposed Roxbury lab, visit http://www.ace-ej.org/BiolabWeb/biolab.html

 

Maryland Opposes Megadeath Labs

By Richard Ochs

Members of the Peace Resource Center (PRC) in Frederick, MD, are organizing against the construction of a Level 4 biosafety lab and two Level 3 labs at Fort Detrick. According to attorney Barry Kissin, Mayor Dougherty of Frederick reported that people picketed in Bethesda, Maryland against building the labs there. The protesters said that the "research facilities" should not be located in a metropolitan area like Bethesda, a suburb of Washington, D.C., but instead at Fort Detrick in Frederick.

Attorney Kissin, who has lived in Frederick for 30 years and lives one mile from the base, pointed out that the 200,000 people who live in the Frederick area are already dangerously impacted by existing facilities. He referred to the very high incidence of cancer among neighbors of Fort Detrick, as reported in the local press.

He also cited the sloppiness of Fort Detrick personnel in the handling of terribly deadly biological agents, as exposed in the best selling book, "The Hot Zone." In April 2002, anthrax spores were twice found outside secure areas at Fort Detrick. The Army has yet to disclose the cause of the accident. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are investigating how a Frederick research institute mistakenly shipped live anthrax bacteria to a California lab where at least five people were exposed to the potentially deadly germs in May. (Baltimore Sun, June 11, 2004) The Level 4 facilities are designed to grow organisms which have no vaccine or cure, such as Ebola, 20 liters of which would be enough to infect every person on the planet.

Kissin joined dozens of other opponents of the lab expansion who picketed, leafleted and testified at an Environmental Impact hearing on June 23 of this year. Most of them opposed putting such labs anywhere. Kissin stated that the only real defense against biological warfare is the enforcement of the international treaty that bans such weapons and a real commitment to forge peace in the world instead of inciting a biological weapons arms race.

The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) bans the development, production, stockpiling, acquisition and retention of biological agents or toxins, in types and quantities that have no justification for peaceful purposes. In 2001, the Bush administration rejected an effort to establish a verification protocol, making the U.S. the only country to reject it at that time. There are strong indications that the variety of anthrax found in envelopes mailed to two U.S. Senators in October 2001 originated at Fort Detrick. This incident brought to light a secret U.S. program to produce weapons-grade anthrax. For more information on this, visit www.freefromterror.net

 

Small Victories: No Burns at INAAP in October

By John Blair and Christine Ziebold

The US Army burned numerous buildings at the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant (INAAP) last spring, despite concerns of negative health effects, and despite the general prohibition of open burns in Indiana. The Army contended that this was the only way to safely decommission the buildings, even though by law alternatives need to be considered and do exist.

We wrote to Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) and the Governor in March, but the burns proceeded despite documented repeated infractions. However, IDEM agreed to issue "news media advisories" after the 3rd burn, arguably an adequate precautionary measure, and monitored selected air pollutants at the last burn. This showed that lead emissions temporarily violated federal air quality standards.

Recently IDEM informed us that the Army had applied for another permit to burn in October. IDEM does not have an electronic docket or list of all the documents dealing with INAAP's burn requests. We got involved again and are happy to report that INAAP withdrew their request on 9-15-04 without explanation. True, the Office of Land Quality had also told them some time ago that they could wait to remove the metal and propellant grains until winter when the grass dies back. To us, it suggests to never underestimate the power of a few.

Further Background: The burns are referred to as "thermal decontamination". Mercury and dioxin emissions were not measured, even though old switches and cables were present, and pentachlorphenol-treated wood and PVC did not even enter the hazard analysis. Likewise, criteria pollutants such as particulate matter were not measured, but photos of the thick smoke plumes attest to the copious emissions. Army officials have said repeatedly that the burns are not hazardous to the public. Of particular concern is that there are six schools in a 2 mile radius. Clark County is rural, not densely populated, and has no local environmental or public health advocates. The IN Department of Health has not been involved. The environmental assessment of last year's burns give one the impression that Army feels the local population can be discounted.

Open burning has been banned around the nation because it puts the public and especially children in harm's way. Burns clearly have public health relevance, both immediate (exacerbation of asthma and COPD cardiovascular side effects) and long term in the prevention of neurodevelopmental impairment (lead, mercury, dioxin), birth defects (particulate matter) and through their contribution to green house gases.

 

MTP and SEAC Debut Online Interactive Military Toxics Map

New Resource to Help Community Organizations and Youth Network with Each Other

* www.stopmilitarytoxics.org *

You heard it here first! MTP and the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) have just posted live on the internet a brand new resource to help community, student, and youth organizations confronting military toxics connect with and support each other. The interactive map at www.stopmilitarytoxics.org allows local youth and community leaders to post information about their work. Military sites, defense contractors, university research centers, and community and youth organizations can all be easily entered into the database and displayed on the map.

The interactive web site and map was jointly developed by MTP and SEAC to encourage networking and collaboration between community organizations and student/youth groups working to stop military pollution. The site was built by OJC Technologies, an independent website design company.

All MTP member organizations have already been entered into the site's database and appear on the map.

To put your organization, toxic military site, youth group, or military research center on the map:

(1) Visit www.stopmilitarytoxics.org

(2) Click "Put your organization or a toxic site on the map!";

(3) Create a user name and password (MTP member organizations already have user accounts - contact the office to get yours!);

(4) Choose what you want to add to the map (a toxic site or an organization) and enter your information.

Once your entry has been approved your site or organization will appear on the map and in the database so potential supporters can find you and your work!