More Death and Destruction From the Warfare State

Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Posted in category Corporatocracy, War

Detroit media has been running investigative reporting that has unveiled a rarely discussed legacy of the warfare state: its abandoned military bases and toxic aftershocks.

Wurtsmith Air Force base in Oscoda, Michigan (the northeastern-ish lower peninsula) was closed in 1993, but it was known as early as the 1970s that groundwater contamination in and around the base was a problem. PFCs, or perfluorinated chemicals that are used in firefighting foam, have polluted residential wells in the surrounding areas. In 1977, it was discovered that a 500-gallon underground storage tank for storing trichloroethylene had been leaking and contaminating the groundwater.

The leak was repaired, but by the following year, nearby residents off the base were asking questions about the contamination and its potential health impacts to them. The U.S. Geological Survey investigated groundwater at the base and identified plumes of TCE; dicholorethane, or DCE, another potentially harmful chemical; and benzene, a petroleum-based solvent and known carcinogen.

The State of Michigan announced its intent to sue the military over the contamination in 1979, in an effort to speed up the cleanup. By 1980, a private residence off-base was found with TCE contamination in its drinking water well.

In January 1994, the EPA moved to add Wurtsmith to its National Priorities List, essentially making it a Superfund site — the worst of the worst, most problematic contaminated sites in the U.S.  The base was evaluated by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, or ATSDR, created by Congress in the Superfund law with a mandate to conduct a public health assessment for every site on the priorities list.

Nearby individuals have been told their well water contains arsenic, diesel fuel, and firefighting foam. There has been no follow-up of people stationed on the base and their health histories. A similar case came out of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. To quote the article:

According to a 2010 federal report, nearly 900 Superfund sites in the U.S. are abandoned military facilities or facilities that provided materials to or otherwise supported the military. The potential liability from connecting people’s health disorders to the toxic pollution they were exposed to at those hundreds of facilities could mean a staggering cost.

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