October 15, 2010 – As this is something I have written on previously it seems appropriate to note that today the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report on open-air burn pits in Afghanistan and Iraq.
U.S. forces generate a lot of waste. According to the GAO U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq generate about 10 pounds of waste per servicemember each day. This waste may consist of plastic, styrofoam, and food from dining facilities; discarded electronics; shipping materials such as wooden pallets and plastic wrap; appliances; and other items such as mattresses, clothing, tires, metal containers, and furniture.
Assuming 50,000 troops in Iraq that is half a million pounds of waste a day. In Afghanistan it is nearly a million pounds a day. That doesn’t count waste produced by contractors or other DOD components. It also doesn’t include hazardous or medical waste. No matter how you look at it that is one heck of a log of garbage to burn.
Lawsuits have been filed in federal court in at least 43 states in which current and former service members have alleged, among other things, that a contractor’s negligent management of burn pit operations, contrary to applicable contract provisions, exposed them to air pollutants that subsequently caused serious health problems.
The contractor, KBR, has moved to dismiss the suits, arguing, among other things, that it cannot be held liable for any injuries that may have occurred to service personnel because its burn pit activities occurred at the direction of the military.