2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: 2 May 2003 01:16:05 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] It's all about perchlorate!
It's All about Perchlorate

The Department of Defense continues to press its Readiness and Range
Preservation Initiative (RRPI) in Congress, but key provisions of the
proposed legislative language, those dealing with munitions and
explosive constituents, have nothing to do with readiness. Careful
comparison with existing laws and regulation demonstrates: It's all
about perchlorate.

Perchlorate is a primary constituent of solid rocket fuel, as well as
other munitions such as smokes, flares, and certain types of spotting
charges. According to the Environmental Working Group (see
http://www.ewg.org/reports/suspectsalads/es.php), "Perchlorate
contaminates more than 500 drinking water sources in 20 states, serving
well over 20 million people" - including the Colorado River. According
to U.S. EPA, "Perchlorate interferes with iodide uptake into the thyroid
gland," inhibiting the development of fetuses and young children and
causing a variety of other conditions in both children and adults.

EWG has identified 162 sites, in 36 states, where perchlorate has been
manufactured or used. This is merely the tip of the iceberg. Perchlorate
has been made, used, stored, or disposed of at hundreds of current and
former military installations across the country, including infantry
ranges, Nike missile silos, and ammunition plants. The only reason we
don't know how many sites are contaminated with perchlorate is that the
Defense Department hasn't looked.

The primary reason the Defense Department isn't systematically seeking
and remediating perchlorate contamination is the price tag. Reportedly,
sometime last year Defense officials figured out that addressing the
national perchlorate mess would cost it billions of dollars. Not
surprisingly, the military would prefer to spend the money deploying
ships, buying planes, and designing a missile defense shield - with
perchlorate rockets.

Defense Department lawyers claim that their RRPI proposal is based upon
U.S. EPA's Military Munitions Rule, but there's an important difference.
RRPI would exempt "explosive constituents" from normal oversight under
the nation's hazardous waste laws; the Munitions Rule doesn't. As
proposed RRPI would make it difficult, if not impossible, for
environmental regulators to insist that the armed services sample and
clean up perchlorate at the source, on properties covered by the

Even if that language is fixed to apply only to "operational ranges,"
hundreds of military training and testing ranges would remain exempt
from requirements for investigation. Yet at ranges where groundwater has
been sampled - including Camp Edwards on the Massachusetts Military
Reservation, Camp Stanton at Maryland's Aberdeen Proving Ground, and
former Camp Bonneville, Washington - perchlorate contamination has been
found. Other ranges should be sampled, but the cost of sampling, let
alone cleanup, would be significant.

The Pentagon's realistic fear that it will be required to do something
about this devastating pollutant is driving its proposal, in RRPI, to
weaken the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and CERCLA (the
Superfund Law). And that's why Congress should reject the legislation.
Instead, it should provide funds and order the Defense Department to
undertake a national comprehensive perchlorate sampling program as the
first step in protecting the American public from this widespread threat
to our health.


Lenny Siegel
Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
c/o PSC, 278-A Hope St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
Fax: 650/961-8918

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