Udall, Corker Call For End Of Use Of Burn Pits In Afghanistan

Monday, July 22, 2013

U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) Monday announced they have sent a bipartisan letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel asking for immediate action to halt the use of open-air burn pits at two camp sites supporting Operating Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Their letter follows reports by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction that found the burn pits were utilized without need and at great danger to the health of U.S. military and civil personnel.

The letter builds on bipartisan legislation coauthored by Senators Udall and Corker and signed into law earlier this year to create a registry of service members and veterans who were exposed to toxic chemicals and fumes from open-air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the letter, the senators noted an April 30, 2013, Inspector General report that found evidence of the ongoing use of open-air burn pits in Afghanistan despite regulations against their use when on-base incinerators are available to dispose of and burn trash instead. The report was followed up by an "alert" letter by the SIGAR on July 11. 

According to the July SIGAR letter, incinerators are not being used — or are not being used "to full capacity" -- because "a contract for their operation and maintenance had not been awarded," despite $11.5 million spent to purchase and install the incinerators. "As a result, the camp was relying heavily on open-air burn pit operations to dispose of its solid waste. However, Department of Defense guidance and a U.S. Central Command regulation limit the use of open-air burn pit operations. Camp Leatherneck is in violation of this guidance and regulation," the SIGAR concluded.

Senators Udall and Corker wrote in response: "We are concerned that despite these precautions required by statute and military directives, our men and women now serving in uniform are still being exposed to open-air burn pits. Last year, we introduced and passed the Open Burn Pits Registry Act, and today we are working to ensure that our veterans and service members are made aware of the dangers posed by their exposure. The men and women of the armed forces serving in Afghanistan deserve better." 

The senators also requested a timeline for the prompt closure of the burn pits at Forward Operating Base Salerno and Camp Leatherneck, both in Afghanistan, and an explanation from the Department of Defense for why it did not fully utilize alternative waste disposal methods. The senators additionally asked that "service members who have been exposed to air pollution caused by the open-air burn pits be notified about the dangers of their exposure, and that their service records indicate that they have served in an area where open-air burn pits were used." 

Camp Leatherneck currently consists of about 13,500 U.S. military and civilian personnel. The Inspector General's July letter noted the health concerns associated with breathing the toxic smoke emissions from open-air burn pits: "The toxic smoke from burning solid waste increases the long-term health risks for camp personnel, including reduced lung function and exacerbated chronic illness, ranging from asthma to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease."

The law championed by Senators Udall and Corker mandates establishment of an open-air burn pit registry, similar to those created to track Agent Orange and Gulf War Syndrome, for individuals who may have been exposed during their service in Iraq and Afghanistan. It aims to help the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs determine to what extent air pollution caused by open-air burn pits has led to medical conditions among service members. It also includes a public information campaign to inform individuals about the registry and periodically notify registry members of significant developments associated with burn pit exposure.

The registry has not yet been established by the VA, and multiple senators have pressed the VA to accelerate its progress and increase outreach to affected veterans. Senator Udall, a member of the Senate Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, included language in the FY 2014 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill urging the VA to detail its implementation efforts for the registry, improve and present a plan for increasing outreach to veterans and their families affected by open-air burn pits, and provide an explanation of how the VA plans to inform VA physicians about the findings of the registry to improve care for veterans. The committee's report requires the VA to present its plan within 60 days.


Man Shot On Cannon Avenue Early Saturday Morning

A man was shot early Saturday morning on Cannon Avenue. At approximately 5:30 a.m., Chattanooga Police responded to 2300 Cannon Ave. for shots fired.  Shortly after receiving the call, officers learned that a victim arrived at a local hospital.  The victim suffered a gunshot wound to the right leg and is undergoing treatment. The injury is not considered to be life-threatening.  ... (click for more)

Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report - And Mug Shots

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: AUSTIN, CHRISTIAN JAMES     727 E 11TH STREET CHATTANOOGA, 37402     26     Chattanooga          PUBLIC INTOXICATION BALL, CHRISTINA JEAN     1267 LEESIDE LANE HIXSON, 37343     29     Hamilton ... (click for more)

State Moving Forward In Educational Improvements

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education released the following statement from President and CEO Jamie Woodson regarding the 2014 legislative session in Tennessee and HB1549/SB1835, which passed the General Assembly Thursday: After a year of extensive public and legislative conversation regarding higher academic standards and related strategies to improve student learning, ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: A Nudge By Angel Kilbride

Way above us, high in the heavens, a handsome angel everybody calls Ben yelled to Saint Peter on Thursday and told him, “Better send me a couple of rubies and maybe an amethyst … Dad’s crown just got bigger.” To you such a scenario may sound silly and foolish but Bill Kilbride, a dynamic genius who has just been named as president-elect of Chattanooga’s Chamber of Commerce, knows ... (click for more)

Fowlkes' 3-Hitter Leads Collierville Past Soddy-Daisy, 7-0

Veteran coach Jeff Hopkins has a unique way of handling the Collierville High School baseball program. Rather than varsity, junior varsity and freshmen teams, Hopkins uses the labels Major League, Triple A and Double A for his Dragons squads. “The kids love it,” Hopkins said of his innovative system. “It’s like a minor-league system and our players understand that. We have ... (click for more)

Pearson, Newell Lead Silverdale Past East Hamilton

The Silverdale Baptist Academy Lady Seahawks got off on the right foot Friday morning in the first game of pool play in the 24th Annual Lady Trojan Invitational softball tournament at the Kids Park in Soddy Daisy. Despite a couple of key players being away for the day, the Lady Seahawks didn't miss a beat as they scored three runs in the first inning before getting two more in ... (click for more)