How the Pentagon’s Handling of Munitions and Their Waste has Poisoned America
Internal #EPA records obtained by ProPublica show that the Radford plant [i.e. the nation’s largest supplier of propellant for artillery and the source of explosives for almost every American bullet fired overseas] is one of at least 51 active sites across the country where the Department of Defense or its contractors are today burning or detonating munitions or raw explosives in the open air, often in close proximity to schools, homes and water supplies. The documents — EPA PowerPoint presentations made to senior agency staff — describe something of a runaway national program, based on “a dirty technology” with “virtually no emissions controls.” According to officials at the agency, the military’s open burn program not only results in extensive contamination, but “staggering” cleanup costs that can reach more than half a billion dollars at a single site.
[...] Our examination found that open burn sites are just one facet of a vast problem. From World War I until today, military technologies and armaments have been developed, tested, stored, decommissioned and disposed of on vast tracts of American soil. The array of scars and menaces produced across those decades is breathtaking: By the military’s own count, there are 39,400 known or suspected toxic sites on 5,500 current or former Pentagon properties. EPA staff estimate the sites cover 40 million acres — an area larger than the state of Florida — and the costs for cleaning them up will run to hundreds of billions of dollars.
The truth is that those materials litter the American landscape like no other industry or source of pollution ever has. “The Pentagon is the most prolific and profound polluter on the planet,” said Jeff Ruch, the executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a national whistle-blower support organization that has chronicled insider reports of pollution and failed cleanups on military sites for decades.