OPINION: Eglin ordnance burning contaminates air & water

What we don’t know may be hurting you or someone you love.

At Eglin and other bases, waste explosives go up in smoke, come down as pollution; is there a better choice?

In hundreds of communities across the U.S., millions of pounds of unneeded explosives such as bombs, artillery shells, propellants, tactical missiles, rockets, pyrotechnics, igniters, cartridges, rounds, flares, and smoke canisters are burned and exploded in the open air. Open burning / open detonation (OB/OD) spews heavy metals, including chromium and lead; energetic compounds; perchlorate; and other toxic waste into the air and onto the land, where it washes into creeks, rivers, and bays and leaches into groundwater. Air and drinking water in these communities can be poisoned; crops and seafood can be contaminated.

Although the federal law on disposal of hazardous waste gives the military and its contractors a loophole to continue OB/OD, the loophole has conditions: “Open burning of hazardous waste is prohibited except for the open burning and detonation of waste explosives. Waste explosives include waste which has the potential to detonate and bulk military propellants which cannot safely be disposed of through other modes of treatment.” (emphasis added)

And now there are other modes of treatment.

And now there is a bill before Congress which would require a study by the National Academies of Sciences to analyze these waste explosives and the alternatives that could be used to dispose of them safely and effectively. The bill is a provision in the Senate’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which will have to be reconciled with the House version containing a similar, but weaker provision.

If the study in the Senate bill becomes law, it can provide the scientific expertise needed to make the best disposal choices, protecting thousands of civilians, military personnel, and workers.

Your voice is urgently needed right now while the conference committee is deciding whether the study will be part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):

Senator Bill Nelson of Florida is a member of the conference committee which will decide which provisions go into the final NDAA. His staff has said that constituent input will be very influential in his position on the study. 

CALL HIM at 202-224-5274

WRITE HIM at https://www.billnelson.senate.gov/contact-bill

(suggest selecting Defense or Military under Issue and NDAA under Subject)

Congressman Jeff Miller of Florida’s First District is also a member of the conference committee which will decide which provisions go into the final NDAA.

CALL HIM at 202-225-4136

WRITE HIM at https://jeffmiller.house.gov/contact/contactform.htm

(suggest selecting Military under Issue)

Please use your own words or any of these talking points:

 

  • Open burning / open detonation is dangerous. OB/OD spews toxic waste into air and onto land and water, often spreading far beyond the point of release.

 

  • Open burning / open detonation creates toxic fumes and particulates that can cause cancer, birth defects, cardiac and immune system deterioration, and severe brain damage.

 

  • The Government Accountability Office cited burn pits as a source of contaminated air that has injured service members, residents, and workers in Afghanistan and Iraq.

 

  • Open burning / open detonation is conducted at military bases across the country, but still the stockpile of waste explosives is growing. Last year the Government Accountability Office estimated that by 2020 there would be more than 1.1 million tons slated for disposal.

 

  • Open burning / open detonation is going on at Eglin Air Force Base in Northwest Florida, where a state permit allows as much as 8 million pounds of waste explosives to be turned into air and water contamination every year.

 

  • Open burning / open detonation is obsolete; new technologies can destroy waste explosives without these high levels of air and water contamination.

 

  • The Senate has passed a requirement for a National Academies of Sciences study of disposal alternatives to determine the safest and most effective technologies for explosives disposal. This study must be included in the final National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

 

  • Senator Nelson is in a critical position to make the National Academies of Sciences study a reality, helping to protect thousands of nearbyresidents, military personnel, and workers.

 

  • Congressman Miller is in a critical position to make the National Academies of Sciences study a reality, helping to protect thousands of nearbyresidents, military personnel, and workers.

Please act right away, and forward this message to your friends.

Thank you very much.

 

Frances Dunham

 

 

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