Since before World War II, the U.S. military, like American industry, has been on a chemical and technology binge. And while we are now becoming aware of the legacy of thousands of poisonous industrial waste sites, we haven’t been told about hundreds, perhaps thousands, of potentially more dangerous military toxic waste sites.
There are two major differences between military and industrial waste — the military problem includes exposure to many different forms of radiation, weapon testing, and dangerous, obsolete weapons whose disposal poses a nearly insolvable problem; equally important, the military is not subject to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations which govern industrial waste procedures.
And each year the military generates over 500,000 tons of hazardous waste, more than the five largest chemical companies combined.
Military toxic hazards range from chemical solvents that destroyed the well water supply of Hipps Road residents in Jacksonville, Florida, and poisoned John Shanahans’ ranch in Eureka, Nevada, to radioactive waste in half a dozen sites in the Midwest and South, like the Y-12 site in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Among the 392 military installations the EPA says need cleanup are:
— 500,000 leaking nerve gas rockets stored in several sites, such as Aberdeen, Maryland; Richmond, Kentucky; Pine Bluff, Arkansas; Umatilla, Oregon; and Tooele, Utah; the leaking rockets cannot be left there indefinitely but there is no known, proven way to destroy them;
— Old Agent Orange manufacturing and storage areas that range from the small shed at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, that exposed Boy Scouts on Jamboree to dioxin, to thoroughly-contaminated communities such as Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood and Jacksonville, Arkansas, where residential gardens have dioxin levels five times higher than those that caused Times Beach residents to be evacuated;
— Exotic chemicals, such as RDX and other World War II explosives, that have contaminated wells in towns like Grand Island, Nebraska.
The public should be aware that the nation’s toxic waste disaster is not limited to commercial industrial sites and the military should be forced to observe EPA waste site regulations on more than a voluntary basis.
RECON, Winter 1986, “Pentagon Dumps Toxics On All Of Us,” by Will Collette, pp 11-12.