Bases, Environment, North America

Military Munitions Disposal is Polluting Puerto Rico, Despite Safer Alternatives

Military Munitions Disposal is Polluting Puerto Rico, Despite Safer Alternatives

From Citizens For Safe Water Around Badger, April 22, 2019

In solidarity with the citizens of Puerto Rico, more than 40 organizations from around the nation are calling on the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Congress to immediately end the relentless open air burning and detonation of hazardous and mixed wastes on the island municipality of Vieques, Puerto Rico by the Department of Defense.

“For six decades, the land and waters of Vieques have been the theater for military exercises and bombing, including depleted uranium, which has caused irreparable harm to the environment and its people,” said Myrna Vega Pagan, a resident and member of Vidas Viequenses Valen. “The Navy is seeking approval to again use open air detonation to remedy a 4,800-acre natural area littered with unexploded ordnance.”

Numerous human health studies have documented higher rates of disease in Vieques compared to the rest of Puerto Rico and exposure to toxic metals and chemical residues from bombs and experimental weaponry has been linked to a substantial increase in cancer, diabetes, hypertension, cirrhosis and respiratory diseases.

“Safer advanced treatment technologies that can capture and destroy toxic emissions have been deployed at other military sites across the U.S. and the world,” said Laura Olah, Executive Director of Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger – the group that organized the national call for action.

In January 2019, the National Academies of Sciences Engineering, and Medicine issued its final report which concluded that alternative technologies to open burning and open detonation of conventional munitions designated for disposal are mature, including contained burn and contained detonation chambers with pollution control equipment, and many are permitted to replace open burning and detonation of waste munitions.

However, without a clear directive and sufficient and stable funding from Congress, it will be impossible for the military to implement a full-scale deployment of alternative technologies to replace OB/OD, the National Academies concluded.

“The U.S. EPA and the U.S. Congress have both the authority and the responsibility to end the open air burning and detonation of hazardous waste,” Olah said. “We have the technologies – we just need the political will to demand them.”

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

Email your public comment opposing the Navy’s proposed plan to use open air burning/detonation to remediate the 4,800-acre natural area known as UXO 12/14 on Vieques, Puerto Rico, in favor of safer alternative technologies to:

Jessica Mollin, Remedial Project Manager, EPA Region 2 mollin.jessica@epa.gov

(Anyone in the U.S. and its territories may comment as this is a question of national policy.)

PUBLIC COMMENT DEADLINE: May 16, 2019.

DOCUMENTS:

Vieques National Call to Action 42 Groups to EPA Reg 2 US Congress 22 April 2019
Vieques Public Notice for Comment on Remedy for UXO 12 and 14
CEASE FIRE Fact Sheet: Alternative Technologies Approved Deployed Sites 2017
CEASE FIRE Fact Sheet: Active OB OD Sites US and Territories 2017
National Academies: Most Alternative Technologies to OB OD Are Mature 2018

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