In a series of images appearing on Fox News, burn pits are seen still in use in the vicinity of Camp Taji, Iraq.
FOX NEWS EXCLUSIVE – Service-members abroad for our nation’s military forces continue to be exposed to toxic chemical clouds coming from burn pits that are still being used in the vicinity of their base.
In a series of images obtained exclusively by Fox News, A burn pit in the vicinity of Camp Taji, Iraq, is seen spewing thick clouds of black smoke into the air on an almost daily basis. According to a soldier stationed at the base, the pits are set ablaze, as much as five times per week. The photos were taken on and around June 3.
“Do you know what it is, as soon as you smell it,” said the U.S. Army soldier, who asked that his name be withheld out of fear for reprisal from his superiors. “That thing smokes and smolders. It has that acrid trash smell.”
Thousands of veterans and former contractors have developed cancer, diseases of the respiratory tract and the blood, disorders of their exposure to toxins from the flaming pits on U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, and many have died. More than 140,000 active members and pensioners have their names on a Burn Pit Registry was created by the Veterans Administration.
Veterans are concerned about the effects of burn pits
The soldier sent photos that he personally snapped after seeing recent reporting by Fox News about the matter. In the previous report, a top-level environmental officer in the Pentagon, recalled how he warned top military officials of the dangers of the burn pit method as early as in 2005 during the height of the war in Iraq.
“The burning is still going on,” the service member said on Fox News. “It is everywhere around us. I don’t want to go 15 years on the road and the wind is sick.”
The whistleblower tells Fox News that the pits have been burning since his unit arrived at Camp Taji, at the end of 2017. They add that the wells are less than 400 metres from the barracks and the smell of the thick black smoke permeates in the air over the base.
“You could say that it is something you know you should not smell,” said the soldier.
The burn pits are used in an environment of Camp Taji known as an “orange zone” where the Iraqi National Forces are stationed.
The wells that are to be seen in the photos on Fox News are located in a part of the Camp Taji known as an “orange zone”—an area, adjacent to the U.S. Military operations where the Iraqi National Forces operate. The soldier told Fox News that while the unit is a part of the camp is not with the burn pits trash removal, it is not clear exactly where their trash ends up.
“I have asked that [the trash],” she said. “No one wants to tell me.”
As with many other overseas bases, the day-to-day operations are handled by private contractors. In the case of Camp Taji, operations are handled by a contracting company called SOS international [SOSi]. While incinerators are located in the AMERICAN part of the base, they are never used, according to the soldier who spoke with Fox News.
Officials of the U.S. Central Command, told Fox News that the waste is collected by a contractor and taken off-site.
But where it is discharged, is another question.
“The burning is still going on. It is everywhere around us. I don’t want to go fifteen years on the road and the wind is sick.”
– The U.S. Army service member stationed at Camp Taji, Iraq
Officials of SOSi, the contracting firm, have not responded to repeated requests for comment.
The haphazard method of getting rid of waste in open air burn pits generated many pollutants, such as carbon monoxide and dioxin—the same chemical found in Agent Orange, the dangerous defoliant armed during the Vietnam War.
A different contractor, Kellogg, Brown and Root, a former Halliburton Corp., a subsidiary, has plenty of class-action lawsuits against. More than 60 lawsuits allege that KBR is the practice of dumping of tires, batteries, medical waste and other materials in open burn pits created harmful smoke, which causes neurological problems, cancer and other health problems to more than 800 service members.
The U.S. Army soldier who is the photos says that the wells are approximately 400 metres from their barracks, and that the smoke often hangs over their part of the base.
In June, three judges of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a federal judge in Maryland, who threw many of the lawsuits brought against KBR. This month, the plaintiffs of the cases had an en bank review, in which a case is heard before all judges of a court of appeal, in contrast to a smaller panel.
The whistleblower is based in Taji said that the photos last month are just a few examples of the constant burning that occurs in the pits near his base on a weekly and sometimes even daily basis, and that the smoke often reaches a choking point as it floats through the air.
The soldier added that the members of his unit often warn younger members about the dangers of exposure to the burn pits and that they should sign up for the registry as soon as they can. The young cadets are often on their first deployment, and are on the risk of the development of what would become a long-term illness.
“There is no guessing as to what we will experience on the road of all the pollution and toxins created in the smoke.”
Perry Chiaramonte is a producer, Fox News Channel, Investigative Unit. Follow him on Twitter via @perrych