How Military Outsourcing Turned Toxic

U.S. B-52 bombers stand ready March 5, 2003 at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. (Photo by Mario Villafuerte/Getty Images)

US B-52 bombers stand ready March 5, 2003 at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. (Photo: Mario Villafuerte / Getty Images)

In August 2016, an inspector from the US Environmental Protection Agency arrived at Barksdale Air Force base in Louisiana, a nerve center for the US military’s global air combat operations, to conduct a routine look at the base’s handling of its hazardous waste.

Barksdale, like many military bases, generates large volumes of hazardous materials, including thousands of pounds of toxic powder left over from cleaning, painting and maintaining airplanes.

For years, Barksdale had been sending a portion of its waste to an Ohio company, US Technology Corp., that had sold officials at the base on a seemingly ingenious solution for disposing of it: The company would take the contaminated powder from refurbished war planes and repurpose it into cinderblocks that would be used to build everything from schools to hotels to big-box department stores — even a pregnancy support center in Ohio. The deal would ostensibly shield the Air Force from the liabililty of being a large producer of dangerous hazardous trash.

The arrangement was not unique.

The military is one of the country’s largest polluters, with an inventory of toxic sites on American soil that once topped 39,000. At many locations, the Pentagon has relied on contractors like US Technology to assist in cleaning and restoring land, removing waste, clearing unexploded bombs, and decontaminating buildings, streams and soil. In addition to its work for Barksdale, US Technology had won some 830 contracts with other military facilities — Army, Air Force, Navy and logistics bases — totaling more than $49 million, many of them to dispose of similar powders.

In taking on environmental cleanup jobs, contractors often bring needed expertise to …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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