Home » A Soldiers Story » Evidently KBR bold face lied about knowing of the chemical hazards at Qarmat Ali!

Evidently KBR bold face lied about knowing of the chemical hazards at Qarmat Ali!

(If you haven’t had the opportunity to listen to KBR managers deny deny deny the truth at Qarmat Ali click HERE)
(This post updated Nov 12, 2010 with a link to “THE DOCUMENT” Minutes of an Oct 2, 2003 meeting.)
KBR knew of exposure of Oregon soldiers to cancer-causing hexavalent chromium in Iraq

Julie Sullivan – November 11, 2010 – Documents exchanged in an Oregon lawsuit suggest that Kellogg, Brown and Root managers had medical tests proving workers at an Iraqi water treatment plant had “significant exposure” to a cancer-causing chemical, and managers worried about KBR’s liability as a result.

The minutes of an Oct. 2, 2003 meeting about blood and urine tests from workers at the Qarmat Ali plant contradicts KBR’s long-standing claims that there was no medical evidence of harm. The documents also indicate KBR’s top health, safety and environmental manager knew plant workers continued to use the toxic chemical long after health alarms were raised. While piles of the corrosion fighter containing hexavalent chromium blew in the desert wind, the workers inside mixing the material wore gas masks.

Hundreds of National Guard soldiers were deployed early in the Iraqi war to guard the civilian contractors. Thirty four Oregon Guard soldiers were among those who didn’t know the orange dust was dangerous and have sued KBR. They claim they now suffer breathing, skin and stomach problems and face greater risk of cancer. Last month, the Oregon soldiers added Halliburton to the suit. KBR was a subsidiary of the oil and construction giant at the time. The suit claims Halliburton employees oversaw part of the industrial process under KBR’s billion dollar no-bid contract to restore Iraqi oil.

KBR has denied any wrongdoing and stated there is no proof of health problems from exposure to hexavalent chromium at Qarmat Ali. According to a company statement, KBR acted quickly to notify the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and posted signs warning of the danger and eventually paved over the site.

KBR spokeswoman Heather Browne said she could not comment further without seeing the latest disclosure.

Details of the 2003 meeting in Iraq are among thousands of documents gathered in the case being tried in federal court in Portland. In a separate case, soldiers from Indiana, West Virginia and Great Britain have filed suit in Texas.

The Oregon soldiers were on the ground daily at Qarmat Ali from May to June 2003 while Indiana soldiers arrived later that summer. At the plant there were 15 KBR employees, 200 workers and 200 people from nearby villagers along with hundreds of soldiers who rotated through in small teams.

The October 2003 meeting between KBR manager Chuck Adams, an Army Corps of Engineers safety manager, and Iraqis from the Iraq Southern Oil Company indicate the managers learned about hexavalent chromium while the Oregon soldiers were guarding the plant — in May.

In notes from the meeting, Adams said that “around July” managers realized the rust-fighter containing hexavalent chromium was “basically open to the atmosphere, scattered all over the water treatment plant.” Adams also noted it had been “banned in the USA, no longer used for water injection.”

According to the minutes, Adams also said they “cannot allow personnel to be exposed, the company will be liable if let this happen.

“We are also concerned about the public that is exposed” and that the chemical “is presenting a problem to the village, not only personnel.”

Iraqi managers said they wanted to “get over this chemical issue and continue working.”

KBR did encourage the Iraqis to stop using the rust fighter.

The Oregon lawsuit is inching forward even as KBR has asked U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit for an early review of whether the federal court in Portland has jurisdiction due to matters of widespread legal and national security questions.

Most of the soldiers did not learn of their exposure until five years after their service. The Department of Veteran Affairs has established a Qarmat Ali registry due to the efforts of Oregon lawmakers. (Click HERE for original article)

To see disturbing deposition video of the KBR managers from Qarmat Ali DENY DENY DENY click HERE.

Here’s another great article on this subject by David Isenberg at the Huffington Post Veterans 1, KBR 0


Ms Sparky

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  1. Comment by Ms Sparky:

    I just updated this post with the documents discovered and referenced in this article.


  2. Comment by Keven Barnes:

    I notice 2 USACE (Army Corp of Engineer) personnel there at that meeting. KBR was there under LOGCAP and KBR had a Contracts Administrator to communicate to DCMA Contracting Officers to ask what they should have done about the situation – clarify. Where is that communication KBR ? What did DCMA tell the company to do ?

    There are pieces missing, but this memo should lead to a few depositions being taken from those in attendance – some of whom have probably already claimed they knew nothing.

  3. Comment by Keven Barnes:

    Geez – you are right.
    A Contracting Officer would still need to make a determination about this chemical. Who was the contracting officer in charge of that contract ? We want to know their name (s) Where is his or her deposition?

    David Isenberg
    Author, Shadow Force: Private Security Contractors in Iraq
    Posted: August 31, 2010 09:38 PM
    Veterans 1, KBR 0

    It is time once again to tune in to the latest episode — oops, I mean development — in the long running farce — oops, I mean legal case — involving KBR and Oregon National Guard soldiers.

    Yesterday there was significant pro-veteran ruling in the Oregon KBR Qarmat Ali litigation.

    I have previously written about this and the open air burn pits KBR ran on dozens of U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan in February, April and June.

    In a 29-page ruling,
    the federal district court in Oregon considered the motion by KBR and co-defendants Overseas Administration Services, Ltd. and Service Employees International, Inc. to dismiss the suit for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and rejected it.

    U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Papak wrote that on March 3, 2003 — before combat operations began in Iraq — the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers entered into a “Restore Iraqi Oil” (RIO) contract) with KBR. Under it, KBR and its subsidiaries agreed to provide services to the U.S. military in connection with efforts to restore the infrastructure underlying the Iraqi oil industry. Also under the RIO contract, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued various “task orders” for KBR to perform. Combat operations in Iraq began on March 19, 2003. On March 20, 2003, the Corps of Engineers issued “Task Order 3,” which governed the services to be provided by KBR and its subsidiaries at Qarmat Ali and other facilities. Under Task Order 3, the U.S. military would declare a given worksite to be “benign” before KBR would begin operations there.

    A lot depends on what you mean by “benign.” In a footnote the judge wrote:

    The parties dispute the meaning of the term “benign” for purposes of Task Order 3. According to the deposition testimony of Robert Crear (retired Brigadier General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) and of Gordon Sumner (retired U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Contracting Officer and regional director of contracting), “benign” referred to freedom from combatant activity and from nuclear or chemical weapons, and did not foreclose the possibility of environmental hazards, including hazardous (but not weaponized) chemicals. Support for this interpretation can be found in the provisions of Task Order 3, which suggest that pronouncement of a site as “benign” did not, for example, foreclose the need for environmental assessment. Nevertheless, defendants take the position that a “benign” designation necessarily meant freedom from known hazards, including environmental hazards, and support for defendants’ position may also be found in the language of Task Order 3, which indicates that a facility must be cleared of environmental and industrial hazards before it may be pronounced “benign.” Because I do not find this issue to be material to the analyses I am called upon to undertake in connection with the political question doctrine, the government contractor defense, or the combatant activities exception, the parties’ dispute over the definition of “benign” need not be resolved at this stage of these proceedings.

    In the underlying facts portion of his ruling the judge wrote:

    Task Order 3 provides that KBR was responsible for providing the Corps of Engineers with an environmental assessment of any facility in which it undertook operations. The obligation to provide such assessments included the obligation to report and evaluate any environmental hazards. According to Sumner’s and Gen. Crear’s deposition testimony, KBR was not merely permitted but required under Task Order 3 and the RIO contract to take all necessary precautions to safeguard personnel who might potentially be exposed to environmental hazards at worksites, including the wearing of protective gear and/or the closing down of operations at any unsafe site.

    In his analysis the judge noted that the defendants argue that this court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction by operation of the political question doctrine, by operation of the so-called “government contractor defense,” and by operation of the combat activities exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act. For background on this see my January post.

    The judge proceeded to detail other cases where district courts have found the political question doctrine inapplicable to tort actions brought against government contractors in the military context.

    In regard to KBR’s claims that various legal tests argue in favor of applying the political question doctrine he wrote that he found their arguments unpersuasive. He wrote, “the matter fundamentally at issue here is defendants’ performance of its contractual obligations to the government and to the plaintiffs rather than the advisability of any governmental policy-related decision.”

    But the guts of the decision, which is undoubtedly giving nightmares to al all PMC legal counsels, is this:

    Defendants here assert that their “provision of engineering and logistical support services at Qarmat Ali” took place pursuant to the specifications of a contract with the government, and that they did not exceed their authority under those specifications. On this basis, defendants argue that they were merely “executing the will of the United States” and are entitled to the benefits of derivative sovereign immunity. The evidentiary record belies both of defendants’ assertions.

    The rationale underlying the government contractor defense is easy to understand. Where the government hires a contractor to perform a given task, and specifies the manner in which the task is to be performed, and the contractor is later haled into court to answer for a harm that was caused by the contractor’s compliance with the government’s specifications, the contractor is entitled to the same immunity the government would enjoy, because the contractor is, under those circumstances, effectively acting as an organ of government, without independent discretion. Where, however, the contractor is hired to perform the same task, but is allowed to exercise, discretion in determining how the task should be accomplished, if the manner of performing the task ultimately causes actionable harm to a third party the contractor is not entitled to derivative sovereign immunity, because the harm can be traced, not to the government’s actions or decisions, but to the contractor’s independent decision to perform the task in an unsafe manner. Similarly, where the contractor is hired to perform the task according to precise specifications but fails to comply with those specifications, and the contractor’s deviation from the government specifications actionably harms a third party, the contractor is not entitled to immunity because, again, the harm was not caused by the government’s insistence on a specified manner of performance but rather by the contractor’s failure to act in accordance with the government’s directives.

    Assuming without deciding that the Ninth Circuit would apply the government contractor defense to the provision of the kinds of services KBR contracted to provide in Iraq under RIO and Task Order 3 […] – analysis of the RIO contract and of Task Order 3 fails to establish that the defendants’ actions alleged to have caused plaintiffs’ injuries were taken in direct compliance with any “reasonably precise” government directive. Quite to the contrary, defendants were contractually obliged to perform an environmental assessment of Qarmat Ali and to report any environmental hazards to the Army Corps of Engineers. Defendants were under no contractual obligation to put their employees or third parties providing security in connection with defendants’ operations into situations involving the risk of environmental harm, to refrain from requiring employees or third parties to use appropriate protective gear and clothing when placed into such situations, or to withhold material information regarding such risk from persons placed into such situations.

    Moreover, assuming arguendo that the government’s specifications regarding defendants’ obligations in connection with operations to be performed in an environmentally contaminated worksite were sufficiently precise to trigger the defense, plaintiffs have offered evidence tending to establish that the defendants violated those contractual duties, by failing to report the contamination at Qarmat Ali and by permitting the Oregon National Guard to perform duties at the site without appropriate protective gear.

    Because defendants did not conduct operations at Qarmat Ali in accordance with precise government specifications and without independent discretion as to the manner in which the operations were to be performed, defendants are not entitled to the government contractor defense. See Hanford Nuclear, 534 F.3d at 1000. Defendants’ motion to dismiss is therefore denied to the extent premised on the government contractor defense.

  4. Comment by Ms Sparky:

    I just need to comment on this real quick…..oh boo freakin’ hoo KBR. You accuse the plaintiff attorneys of:

    “It appears that plaintiffs’ lawyers improperly are attempting to influence public opinion, and the opinion of potential jury pools, by selectively disclosing only a few documents out of the many thousands of documents produced in this case.”

    Wasn’t it you KBR that started this whole media blitz. Bill Bodie started writing editorials for any newspaper who would publish them? Playing the poor victim and through the tears claiming “KBR didn’t do it!” I had to start a whole new category for these Op-Ed pieces called Bodie Babble! Now that Bodie is gone I don’t know what to call it!

    KBR, you got caught lying….plain and simple. Now you are trying to squirm your way out of it!

    You can read the entire WJS.com article HERE

  5. Comment by Marc:

    I think that it is encouraging for this case that the military retired Robert Crear and Gordon Sumner do not seem to be currently employed by KBR. In the military contracting world isn’t that an unusual situation?

  6. Comment by Optimus Prime:

    I was not there in 2003 so I cannot say basically anything. I do know that in 2004, that KBR had thier shit together when it came to air monitoring and safety at Qarmat Ali.

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