Open-pit trash burning assailed
KABUL, Afghanistan — A federal watchdog agency says the military is endangering the health of troops and civilians working at the main Marine Corps base in Afghanistan by burning solid waste in open pits even as two of the base's four incinerators — built for $11.5 million — go unused and the other two are running below capacity.
The federal Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction says in a new report that the open burning at Camp Leatherneck, in Helmand province in the far south of the country, violates Pentagon regulations and poses long-term health risks for camp personnel, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
It also said the camp was pursuing a $1.1 million contract to haul garbage to a local landfill that might not be necessary, given that the number of troops at Leatherneck has been falling as part of the drawdown of U.S. and NATO forces, which will leave no combat troops in the country by the end of next year.
There are about 13,500 troops at the base now. When the number drops to 12,000, the incinerators could handle all the waste, the report says.
Leatherneck is adjacent to the main British base here, Camp Bastion, and a major Afghan army base, Camp Shorabak. It's surrounded by desert, and the air quality is notorious because of wind-blown dust. Respiratory and nasal problems are common. That led a U.S. company last year to pledge donations of up to $2 million in nasal and sinus cleaning and moisturizing products for troops stationed there and at other U.S. bases overseas.
The agency issued the report earlier this month as an “alert letter” to Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin, who is the head of U.S. Central Command, which oversees Afghanistan, and Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the commander of the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan.
In response to questions about the report, Lt. Col. William Griffin, a spokesman for the coalition, said it was trying to meet regulations by halting pit burning in some places and taking steps to reduce health risks in others.
“By July 31st, only four bases will have active burn pit operations,” Griffin wrote. “Those four bases have submitted waivers to U.S. Central Command in order to be in compliance with regulations.”
Open-air burning is used only to dispose of nonhazardous material and is monitored closely to prevent risks to those who live and work on the bases, he wrote.
“When the cloud ceiling is too low or wind blows in the direction of Camp Leatherneck, open-burn operations are halted until conditions improve,” Griffin wrote.
The garbage-hauling contract is for less than $900,000, and it's needed because some types of waste can't be burned, he said in a telephone interview. He said it also was necessary to haul other waste to a landfill when the incinerators were out of service for maintenance or repairs.
“That way, they will be able to completely do away with the need for the burn pit,” he said.
The agency report says there are two 12-ton incinerators and two with 24-ton capacities. The smaller ones aren't being used to capacity, and the larger ones aren't being used at all because a contract to run and maintain them hadn't been awarded.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Nepal quake: More than 1,100 dead, history razed, Everest shaken
- Senior officials are toppled in China’s anti-graft campaign
- Recuperating ambassador to South Korea, Lippert, vows to be open
- Terrorists planned attack on Vatican, officials say
- All sides in war-torn Yemen say they’re willing to negotiate, but battles, bombs rage unabated
- DNA matches child born in Vietnam, father in Texas after 40 years
- Fighting, gasoline shortage intensify Yemen crisis
- Irradiated drone found atop Japanese PM’s office
- Iraqi general, 3 officers killed in convoy ambush