2010 CPEO Military List Archive

From: "Steven B. Pollack" <Steve@EcoEsq.com>
Date: Mon, 17 May 2010 20:38:07 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: Re: [CPEO-MEF] MUNITIONS: Beaches in Chicago suburbs closed at Fort Sheridan

The DOD has engaged in a decades long effort to suppress technology
developed by Underwater Ordnance Recovery that the company has tried in
vain to get the DOD to adopt to recover its abandoned UXO. DOD chooses
instead to ignore CERCLA, RCRA, the CWA, and the Military Munitions Rule
and externalize its operations into the environment. The same story
repeats itself regarding chemical munitions off Hawaii, accumulated
bombs off Vieques, munitions rolling up the shore off the Erie Army
Depot in Lake Erie, barrels of munitions in Lake Superior dumped by the
Army Corps of Engineers, and millions of rounds of UXO in Lake Michigan
near public drinking water intakes. This technology, if it had been
contracted, could also have been adapted to shut off the wellhead where
the ROV's, essentially subs with robotic arms, have proved unsuccessful.
The ROV's do not have the counterbalance of a heavy ocean-bed based
vehicle to manipulate the wellhead shut offs.

At every cleanup of underwater munitions the US EPA defers to the
Department of Defense because of its special expertise on munitions. The
problem is that allowing the waste originator to run the cleanup where
its decisions affect its own budget leads to a conflict of interest that
seems to play out in the same way every time. No cleanup. 

The DOD employs various tactics of denial and delay in an effort to wear
down vocal stakeholders, eventually frustrating and outlasting their
dissent to the lack of action. The DOD begins by denying there is any
issue, forcing the stakeholders to prove there are any underwater
munitions in the first place. The DOD  begins by failing to be proactive
at underwater sites for which its own information repositories contain
the only historic record of its activities. It simply waits and reacts
if some local citizens happen to notice the issue. This is an expensive
and dangerous proposition for stakeholders, usually local residents,
without the expertise or funding to do the DOD's work.

In cases where stakeholders do notice the issue, the DOD will then deny
there is a problem. They will either deny there are underwater munitions
or deny there is any environmental harm that can be caused by them if
they do exist. In Vieques, in Puerto Rico, a Navy admiral actually
denied there are any underwater munitions notwithstanding decades of
live fire bombing of the island. The attorney general of Puerto Rico had
to hire an expert to film him scuba diving next to underwater 500lb
bombs. In Hawaii, where chemical munitions were dumped the DOD will deny
the scope of the problem by conducting environmental studies away from
areas where it knows contain substantial numbers of munitions. It will
thus appear to be doing something but its actions are actually meant to
deny the problem.

Sometimes the stakeholders already know the scope of the issue and
demand action. The DOD accomodates this by conducting slow moving and
underfunded underwater studies that take decades to complete.
Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur has been after the DOD for decades to address
the issue of munitions rolling up the lakebed in Lake Erie near the Erie
Army Depot. These munitions have ruined property values and kept local
residents from using their lakefront property. The Army Corps of
Engineers reluctantly agreed to conduct a wide area assessment to plot
out the hundreds of thousands of live munitions littering the lakebed
but has no plan to remove the munitions. Instead they contract with
private companies to go out every few years to pick up the munitions
that have rolled up to the edge of the water. This is their long-term
plan! The DOD is fighting tooth and nail to avoid contracting for
technology that could mow the "grass" so to speak and clean up the
entire site.

The Army Corps of Engineers themselves dumped 1,400 barrels of spent
munitions on behalf of the Twin Cities Munitions Plant into Lake
Superior. After denying the issue for decades until stakeholders sifted
for documents proving it, the DOD then denied there is a problem because
these were simply inert hand grenade casings for which the DOD wanted to
protect proprietary designs. When no one bought that they reluctantly
agreed to fund a wide area assessment to find the barrels by giving a
contract to the Lake Superior Red Cliff Band of Chippewa Indians, a
tribe with about 1,000 members living on Lake Superior.  The studies,
however, are limited to the near shore area whereas the more toxic
barrels would have been dumped further offshore. The plan is probably to
find and pull up a few of the less toxic barrels and then extrapolate
the findings over the entire 1,400 barrels to deny there is a problem.
The appearance of action should satisfy those who believe the DOD
operates with integrity on these issues and those who don't will likely
get burned out from decades of delay and being provided studies with
analysis tainted by DOD's desire to avoid spending money on
environmental cleanup.

In a recent cleanup at Badger Army Ammunition Plant in Wisconsin, the
local Restoration Advisory Board obtained technical assistance grant
funding to hire an outside expert to help the stakeholders understand
the science in the reports being provided by DOD. When the expert's
report was complete it painted a stark picture not complimentary of the
DOD cleanup. The DOD's response was to issue a gag order on the expert
and the restoration advisory board so that the report could not be
released until DOD concurred with its findings. While not an underwater
cleanup, these draconian measures show how far out of control this
conflict of interest is. Where underwater munitions are concerned, there
are few outside experts to turn to that can assess DOD's findings.

Steven B. Pollack, Attorney
Executive Director, Blue Eco Legal Council
P.O. Box 1370
Highland Park, IL 60035

Military mailing list

  Prev by Date: [CPEO-MEF] FUDS: Former Almaden Air Force Station (CA)
Next by Date: [CPEO-MEF] Munitions: Fort Sheridan Beaches Closed
  Prev by Thread: [CPEO-MEF] FUDS: Former Almaden Air Force Station (CA)
Next by Thread: [CPEO-MEF] Munitions: Fort Sheridan Beaches Closed

CPEO Lists
Author Index
Date Index
Thread Index