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Oct-08-2009 19:57printcomments

Senate Hears Testimony on DoD Toxic Soup

A growing awareness of serious toxic waste on military bases is getting national attention.

El Toro Marine base summer 2009
It's hard to believe this was a pristine Marine Corps base until 1999. Developers in Orange County want to transform the heavily polluted grounds of El Toro into upper-scale housing subdivisions and a park for kids to play in. The deadly toxins vary, but the main culprit is TCE - trichloroethylene, a chemical degreaser once used to clean fighter jets here. photo by Bonnie King

(WASHINGTON D.C.) - The Defense Department is the biggest owner of EPA Superfund sites. Over 130 military bases are on the National Priority List (EPA Superfund).

In his opening statement today, Senator Daniel Akaka, Chairman, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, noted the requirement for the VA to provide health care and compensation to veterans who were harmed by exposures while in the military.

According to Senator Akaka, DOD “must first determine who was exposed, what they were exposed to, and the health consequences of such exposure, and then share that information with VA.”

For any military base on the EPA Superfund list, EPA has identified hazardous agents or Chemicals of Concern (COC). This information is available to anyone with access to the internet.

The issue of disclosure is more difficult when a veteran was exposed to a hazardous agent while in the military and the base is not an EPA Superfund.

Unless DOD discloses the information to the VA, veterans have no way of “connecting the dots to military service.”

On Thursday, the Committee heard testimony from veterans and survivors of U.S. service members who faced exposure to toxins during tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Camp Lejeune, and Atsugi Naval Air Station in Japan.

Stacy Pennington, the sister of Iraq war veteran Steven Ochs who died in 2008 from cancer, said a military burn pit in Balad, Iraq, was a "ticking time bomb" for her brother.

Former Army Staff Sergeant and medic Russell Powell testified on the inhaled clouds of orange colored dust that blew throughout the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant when he arrived there in 2003.

Powell said,"We would have severe nose bleeds, coughing up blood, a hard time breathing, nausea, and a burning sensation in the lungs and throat."

The substance was identified as sodium dichromate, highly carcinogenic to humans.

A group of El Toro veterans and other interested parties submitted written comments to the Committee. None of the El Toro veterans were scheduled to give testimony. Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) El Toro, California, is one of 130 military bases on the EPA Superfund.

Any veteran or other interested party can submit information to the Committee on the topic of the hearing for a few more days. Comments should be emailed to:

A video on the Committee’s hearing can be viewed at:

The following written comments to the Committee stressed the critical need for disclosure of hazardous agents, medical monitoring and access to tests for veterans, and medical care and disability for those with current medical conditions:

October 8, 2009

Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs

Chairman Senator Daniel Akaka and Ranking Republican Senator Richard Burr

United States Congress

Washington D.C.

Subject: Hearing on the VA/DOD Response to Certain Military Exposures - Submission for the Record

Dear Sirs:

We thank you for holding hearings regarding military exposures to hazardous agents. We understand the hearings focus on a few locations your Committee has concerns about regarding potential health hazards. We are providing very brief comments for your consideration and the record. We request that you pursue actions to mitigate health problems arising from hazardous exposures at US military bases.

Marines and others who serve anticipate hazardous conditions will occur. While efforts should be made to minimize hazards, some activities are inherently dangerous and even lethal. We realize that knowledge of chemical hazards was neither as extensive nor widespread in past decades. But the degree of hazard is clearly indicated by the 130 current and former military bases that are federally-designated Superfund sites (Attachment 1). This designation requires extensive proof of hazardous chemical contamination. Carcinogenic, neurotoxic, and mutagenic chemicals were used during military duties (e.g., jet fuels and other fuels, degreasing solvents) without personal protective gear. Burn pits and other operations created additional toxic airborne chemicals, and often the soil, dust, and water on bases were contaminated. The burden of exposure and disease is only now being fully realized.

El Toro is one of many bases operated to serve US defense needs, manned by people who put their lives on the line to protect and defend our citizens. The prevalence of hazards on bases is illustrated by the example shown in Attachment 2. Many veterans have difficulty locating information on chemicals that they were exposed to, if they know that the information exits. Medical evaluations of their exposures and illnesses that may result in a Nexus statement are very expensive. Yet this is required to receive essential medical care and disability support. This process is indefensible given the substantial medical science available to the VA on chemical hazards.

While we welcome an opportunity to provide additional information, for the sake of brevity we request that your Committee carefully consider and prompt the VA to take the following actions essential to preserving the health of Veterans:

* Disclosure hazardous agents used on military bases, with information on potential health effects of the agents

* For those highly exposed to hazardous agents, provision of medical monitoring and access to tests for early diagnosis of diseases related to hazardous agents

* Medical care and disability for those with medical conditions related to their military service

Valuing the service provided by Veterans requires the VA and DOD's participation in basic public health outreach and services. This will provide the Veterans the best opportunity for good health, improve the economic viability of their families, and it is fundamentally the right and just thing to do. We are submitting these comments as Marines, family members of Marines, and health professionals working with Marines who served at the El Toro Marine Base in Irvine California.

Submitted via e-mail on October 8, 2009

Respectfully submitted by the following individuals,

Robert O'Dowd*
Marine Veteran
Former Financial Manager, Defense Logistics Agency

James Davis
Founder and President of Veterans for Change
Son of Marine

Mary Davis
Former Judge Advocate General (JAG) employee
Wife of Marine

Tim King
Marine Veteran

Bonnie King
Wife of Marine Veteran

Johnny P. Barron
Marine Veteran
Sr. Systems Programmer

John Paul Rossi
Navy Veteran
Executive Director Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association

Patrick McDade
Marine Veteran
Electronics technician

William Mimiaga
Marine Veteran
Special Education Teacher

Christine Mimiaga
Air Force Veteran

John Uldrich
Marine Veteran

Dr. Kathleen Burns
Director, Sciencecorps
Dr. Philip Leveque
Forensic Toxicologist/Pharmacologist

Dr. Michael Harbut
Chief, Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine Chair, Science Committee, Michigan Agent Orange Commission, 1987 - 1988"

Dr. Daniel Teitelbaum
Adjunct Professor
Colorado School of Public Health & University of Colorado at Denver

Attachment 1. US Military Bases Federally Designated as Hazardous Waste Sites**

Attachment 1. US Military Bases Federally Designated as Hazardous Waste Sites**

US Air Force

Air Force Plant #4 (General Dynamics) Fort Worth TX

Air Force Plant 85Columbus OH

Air Force Plant PJKS Littleton CO

American Lake Gardens/McChord AFBTacoma WA

Andersen Air Force BaseYigo GU

Andrews Air Force Base Andrews AFB MD

Arnold Engineering Development Center Tullahoma/ Manchester TN

Brandywine DRMO Brandywine MD

Castle Air Force Base Merced CA

Chanute Air Force Base Rantoul IL

Dover Air Force Base Dover DE

Edwards Air Force Base Edwards AFB CA

Eielson Air Force Base Fairbanks AK

Ellsworth Air Force Base Ellsworth SD

Elmendorf Air Force Base Anchorage AK

F.E. Warren Air Force Base Cheyenne WY

Fairchild Air Force Base Spokane WA

George Air Force Base Victorville CA

Griffiss Air Force Base Rome NY

Hanscom Air Force Base Bedford MA

Hill Air Force BaseHill AFB UT

Attachment 2 (continued): US Military Base Hazardous Waste Sites

US Air Forcee

Homestead Air Force Base Homestead Air Force Base FL

Loring Air Force BaseLimestone ME

Luke Air Force Base Glendale AZ

March Air Force Base Riverside CA

Mather Air Force BaseMather CA

McChord Air Force Base Tacoma WA

McClellan Air Force Base McClellan CA

McGuire Air Force Base Wrightstown NJ

Mountain Home Air Force Base Mountain Home ID

Norton Air Force Base San Bernardino CA

Pease Air Force Base Portsmouth/ Newington NH

Plattsburgh Air Force Base Plattsburgh NY

Rickenbacker Air National Guard Lockbourne OH

Robins Air Force Base Houston Co. GA

Tinker Air Force Base Oklahoma City OK

Travis Air Force Base Travis AFB CA

Twin Cities Air Force Reserve Base Minneapolis MN

Tyndall Air Force Base Panama City FL

Attachment 2 (continued): US Military Base Hazardous Waste Sites

US Air Force

Williams Air Force Base Chandler AZ

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Dayton OH

Wurtsmith Air Force Base Oscoda MI

US Coast Guard

Curtis Bay Coast Guard Yard Baltimore MD

US Army

Aberdeen Proving Ground Edgewood MD and Aberdeen MD

Alabama Army Ammunition Plant Childersburg AL

Anniston Army Depot Anniston AL

Cornhusker Army Ammunition Plant Hall County NE

Fort Devens Fort Devens & Sudbury MA

Fort Dix Pemberton Township NJ

Fort Eustis Newport News VA

Fort George G. Meade Odenton MD

Fort Lewis Tacoma and Tillicum WA

Fort Ord Marina CA

Fort Richardson Anchorage AK

Fort Riley Junction City KS

Fort Wainwright Fort Wainwright AK

Iowa Army Ammunition Plant Middletown IA

Joliet Army Ammunition Plant Joliet IL

Lake City Army Ammunition Plant Independence MO

Letterkenny Army Depot Franklin Co. and Chambersburg PA

Lone Star Army Ammunition Plant Texarkana TX

Longhorn Army Ammunition Plant Karnack TX

Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant Doyline LA

US Army

Materials Technology Lab Watertown MA

Milan Army Ammunition Plant Milan TN

Natick Lab Army Research, Development, and Engineering Center Natick MA

New Brighton/Arden Hills New Brighton MN

Picatinny Arsenal Rockaway Township NJ

Riverbank Army Ammunition Plant Riverbank CA

Rocky Mountain Arsenal Adams County CO

Sacramento Army Depot Sacramento CA

Savanna Army Depot Activity Savanna IL

Schofield Barracks Schofield HI

Seneca Army Depot Romulus NY

Sharpe Army Depot Lathrop CA

Sunflower Army Ammunition PlantDesoto KS

Tobyhanna Army Depot Tobyhanna PA

Tooele Army Depot Tooele UT

Tracy Defense Depot Tracy CA

Umatilla Army Depot Hermiston OR

US Army/NASA Redstone Arsenal Huntsville AL

US Army

Weldon Spring Former Army Ordnance Works St. Charles County MO

West Virginia Ordnance Point Pleasant WV

US Navy and Marines

Adak Naval Air Station Adak AK

Alameda Naval Air Sta. Alameda CA

Allegany New Roman">Ballistics Laboratory, Mineral Co. WV

Bangor Naval Submarine Base Silverdale WA

Bangor Ordnance Disposal Bremerton WA

Barstow Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow CA

Brunswick Naval Air Station Brunswick ME

Camp Lejeune Onslow County NC

Camp Pendleton Marine Base Camp Pendleton CA

Cherry Point Marine Corps Station Havelock NC

Concord Naval Weapons Station Concord CA

Davisville Naval Construction Battalion Center N. Kingstown RI

El Toro Marine Corps Air Station El Toro CA

Indian Head Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head MD

Jackson Park Housing Complex Kitsap Co. WA

Jacksonville Naval Air Station Jacksonville FL

Marine Corps Combat Development Quantico VA

Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany GA

Moffett Naval Air Station Moffett Field CA

Naval Air Development Warminster Township PA

Naval Air Engr CTR Lakehurst NJ

Naval Air Station, Whidbey Isl Whidbey Isl. WA

US Navy and Marine

Naval Amphib. Base Little Creek Virginia Beach VA

Naval Computer & Telecommunications Master Station Eastern Pacific Wahiawa HI

Naval Indust. Reserve Ordnance Plant Fridley MN

Naval Security Group Activity Sabana Seca PR

Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren VA

Naval Undersea Warfare Engr Station Keyport WA

Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Bedford MA

Naval Weapons Station Yorktown VA

Naval Weapons Station Earle Colts Neck NJ

Navy Ships Parts Control Ctr Mechanicsburg PA

New London Submarine Base New London CT

Newport Naval Edu & Training Ctr Newport RI

Norfolk Naval Base Norfolk & Portsmouth VA

NWS Yorktown - Cheatham Annex Yorktown VA

Parris Island Marine Corps Depot Parris Island SC

Patuxent River Naval Air Station Patuxent River MD

Pearl Harbor Naval Complex Pearl Harbor HI

Pensacola Naval Air Station Pensacola FL

Port Hadlock Detachment Indian Island WA

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Kittery ME

US Navy and Marines

Puget Sound Naval Shipyard Bremerton WA

So. Weymouth Naval Air Station Weymouth MA

St. Juliens Creek Annex Chesapeake VA

Treasure Island Naval Station San Francisco CA

USN Air Station Cecil Field Jacksonville FL

Washington Navy Yard Washington DC

Whiting Field Naval Air Station Milton FL

Willow Grove Naval Air & Air Reserve Station Horsham PA

Yuma Marine Corps Air Station Yuma AZ

Bob O’Dowd is a former U.S. Marine with thirty years of experience on the east coast as an auditor, accountant, and financial manager with the Federal government. Half of that time was spent with the Defense Logistics Agency in Philadelphia. Originally from Pennsylvania, he enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 19, served in the 1st, 3rd, and 4th Marine Aircraft Wings in 52 months of active duty in the 1960s. A graduate of Temple University, Bob has been married to Grace for 31 years. He is the father of two adult children and the grandfather of two boys. Bob has a blog site on former MCAS El Toro at This subject is where Bob intersected with Bob served in the exact same Marine Aviation Squadron that Salem-News founder Tim King served in, twenty years earlier. With their combined on-site knowledge and research ability, Bob and Tim and a handful of other ex-Marines, have put the contamination of MCAS El Toro on the map. The base is highly contaminated with TCE, trichloroethelyne

  • . You can email Bob O’Dowd, Environmental and Military Reporter, at this address:

    Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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    j. ochs October 12, 2009 4:30 pm (Pacific time)

    my son was victim with many more. the culpert: "burn pits" in iraq and afganistan. 14 yrs of loyal service died from AML 7-12-08

    Carol October 12, 2009 8:41 am (Pacific time)

    My son in law died of Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma at age 29 - very rare cancer only affects 1 or 2 in one million people. He was concieved and lived on Camp Lejeune as a young child. If he had been warned and monitored he may be alive today.

    Bob O'Dowd October 10, 2009 10:48 am (Pacific time)

    Jim, Based on their response to Camp Lejeune's water well contamination and the exposures to Marines and dependents, I'm not optimistic. Congress is moving at a crawl’s pace. Too much attention to studying the problem and nothing for the health needs of those exposed to toxins. For example, it makes no sense to me for the Marine Corps to fund studies to find “conclusive proof” those organic solvents in the water wells caused particular diseases. For VA purpose, a veteran only needs proof of probable cause (at least as likely as not) equal to 50%. To my knowledge, no one has called this to the attention of the Marine Corps or Congress. A great deal of taxpayer money has been spent on water modeling studies. I’m sure any reasonable study by experts could support probably cause (50%) that the contaminated water caused cancer and other serious medical conditions in those who drank the water at Camp Lejeune.

    Jim Davis, Veterans-For-Change October 9, 2009 4:59 pm (Pacific time)

    I hope they will act a great deal more quickly than it took them for Agent Orange. Peole can't wait 20-40 years to have illnesses recognized!

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