Sunday, October 17, 2010

Veterans 'In The Dark' About Environmental Hazards

“No mama, no popa, no Uncle Sam.
No aunts, no uncles, no nephews, no nieces.
No rifles, no planes, or artillery pieces.
And nobody gives a damn.
We’re the sick and dead who lived and worked on contaminated land.”

Veteran Service Organizations are not providing critical health information to their memberships on military installations that are EPA Superfund sites. (WASHINGTON, DC) – Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) have not notified veterans of their possible exposure to environmental hazards at 130 military installations on the EPA National Priority List (Superfund sites).
Courtesy: CNN
There‟s a critical need for the VSOs to exercise leadership by identifying the 130 military bases on the NPL, including the EPA internet link to Contaminants of Concern for each base.
There is no legal requirement or interest by the Defense Department or any government agency to notify veterans that they may have been exposed to toxic chemicals, radiation or other environmental hazards.
It‟s unlikely that the government will step into this role without specific legislation. Under intense pressure from Congress, the Marine Corps at Camp Lejeune established a website registry for veterans who may have been affected by TCE contaminated drinking water at the base.
A number of Congressional hearings were held, bills introduced into Congress to provide medical care to veterans and their dependents, but as of this date, the Marine Corps has not accepted responsibility for illnesses and deaths linked to the contaminated well water.
With 130 military bases on the EPA National Priority List (EPA Superfund), veterans are at risk of exposure to environmental hazards.
The mission of VSOs is to serve veterans and support their needs. Nothing can be more important than your health. There‟s no magic pill for exposure to an environmental hazard. Medical care providers need to know when a patient has been exposed to particular environmental hazards to provide appropriate medical care. Failure to provide this critical information is inexcusable.
Not everyone who was stationed on an EPA Superfund base was exposed to an environmental hazard, but an indeterminate number were and the health effects are serious.
Emails to the national headquarters of the American Legion, VFW, the Marine Corps League and other VSOs asking them to alert their membership of possible exposure to toxic chemicals were left unanswered.
This is not rocket science. The information on environmental hazards is resident on the EPA Superfund database. The link to the websites is contained in this article. This is literally a „no brainer.‟ Any VSO with a website only has to cut and paste the list of military bases.
MCAS El Toro Example. Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, California, has been an EPA Superfund site since 1990. In 1985, the Orange County Water District found trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE) in shallow irrigation wells down gradient of the base.
Before knowledge of the adverse health effects on humans from exposure to these TCE and PCE were known, they were commonly used as degreasers for aircraft and vehicles.
In 1990, MCAS El Toro was placed on EPA‟s National Priorities List (NPL) primarily because of a plume of toxic waste of TCE and PCE spreading off base several miles which threatened the local water supply. In 1993, MCAS El Toro was placed on the DoD BRAC list and officially closed in 1999.
At El Toro, the Navy identified 25 contaminated areas on base, including landfills containing both hazardous and solid waste; buried drums of explosives and low-level radioactive waste; and areas where PCBs, battery acids, leaded fuels, and other hazardous substances were dumped or spilled. The Navy spent millions of dollars in cleaning up the former base.
At a September 2010 Irvine City Council meeting, the Navy estimated that it would take 40 years to complete the environmental clean-up at El Toro.
Assuming a Marine veteran “connects the dots of military services to a current medical condition,” their only remedy is to file a claim with the Veterans Administration, assuming they are aware of what happened to them and unless they lived in Orange County, California that‟s unlikely.
EPA‟s Contaminants of Concern
For military bases that are EPA Superfunds, EPA defines environmental hazards as Contaminants of Concern (COC‟s).
According to EPA, “COC‟s are the chemical substances found at the site that the EPA has determined pose an unacceptable risk to human health or the environment. These are the substances that are addressed by cleanup actions at the site.”
“ Identifying COC‟s is a process where the EPA identifies people and ecological resources that could be exposed to contamination found at the site, determines the amount and type of contaminants present, and identifies the possible negative human health or ecological effects that could result from contact with the contaminants.”


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