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Friday, February 13, 2015

U.S. troops burned waste in hazardous open pits while safer incinerators sat idle

Burn Pit

Today's post is shared from

Bobby Elesky, who worked as a civilian Defense Department contractor at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan from January 2004 until February 2005, recalls the smelly, smoky burn pit there being the size of nearly three football fields.

Trash would be thrown in as the evenings approached, he recalled in a phone conversation, and then burn and smolder through the next day. "Everything got thrown in there," he said. "Tires, batteries, plastic water bottles. Even complete vehicles."

The U.S. military knew the burn pits at its Afghan bases posed health risks to its personnel, and spent more than $20 million building incinerators meant to dispose of the mountains of trash being produced by its soldiers in the country every day: 440 tons at the height of the surge.

But many of the incinerators were defective and never operated, and U.S. commanders in Afghanistan flouted federal law and military regulations for four years by burning hazardous waste, such as batteries and aerosol cans, in the open pits near military personnel, according to a scathing new federal audit of U.S. operations in Afghanistan.

Tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers and civilians were stationed at the four bases inspected for the report, where burn pits were used as recently as October 2013. At Shindand Airbase in western Afghanistan, for example, about 360 truckloads of the U.S. military’s solid waste were burned in open pits between November 2012 and June 2013, according to...

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Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thompson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thompson-Reuters). For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman  have been representing injured military, government contractors and civilian government employees and their families who have suffered illness or injury as a result of burn pit exposures. To contact Jon L Gelman click here.