Thursday, April 05, 2012

Who has enough shame to hold stock in KBR?

Nigel Duara (AP) reports that papers filed with the US District Court in Oregon maintain that KBR fully knew sodium dichromate was being used at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant in Iraq despite claims asserted in depositions and testimony that they only learned of it in the summer of 2003. Sodium dichromate can cause cancer and breathing difficulties. Mike Francis (Oregonian) adds:

Michael Doyle, a Houston lawyer representing the Oregon soldiers, said an environmental assessment that Kellogg, Brown and Root completed for the U.S. government before the invasion of Iraq, was finalized in January 2003 -- a full five months before the company said it had found evidence of the toxic material, sodium dichromate. But he said KBR hasn't admitted the existence of the assessment, much less its significance, despite repeated questions from the soldiers' lawyers.
"They went to great lengths to conceal the existence of it," he said by phone Wednesday.
The documents show KBR knew Iraqis ordered 8 million pounds of sodium dichromate to keep pipes from corroding, and that the company expected lax environmental maintenance and "lamentable" conditions.

They tried to keep it hidden and they have done that over and over. They have been repeatedly caught lying and have expressed no remorse or any desire to settle. In December 2008, Armen Keteyian (CBS Evening News with Katie Couric -- text and video) reported on James Gentry's developing lung cancer after serving at Iraq where he guarded KBR's water plant, "Now CBS News has obtained information that indicates KBR knew about the danger months before the soldiers were ever informed. Depositions from KBR employees detailed concerns about the toxin in one part of the plant as early as May of 2003. And KBR minutes, from a later meeting state 'that 60 percent of the people . . . exhibit symptoms of exposure,' including bloody noses and rashes."

We covered the October 8, 2009 Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing entitled "VA and DoD Response to Certain Military Exposures." Russell Powell served in the US army from 1994 to 2001 and then joined the West Virginia Army National Guard. As a Guard member, he was deployed to Iraq in March 2003 and stationed at Qarmat Ali Water Treatment Plant in Basra. He told the Committee about attempting to address the issue in a culture of silence.

Russell Powell: I think that the Army did, or the Department of Defense did kind of lack in acknowledgment that we were even exposed later, about five years later. after we returned home. And it was just kind of an eye opener. So that's kind of -- I'll tell you like this. We go to the VA and the VA has no idea what's going on with us but they still are kind of timid on what to say -- whether it's exposure or anything like that. They're just -- are trying to back away from us. So we're all pretty disappointed. We're on a registry but the registry, to us, doesn't -- still doesn't say "You guys were exposed." Or a lot of soldiers try to put in claims for the chemical exposure get denied.

For more on Powell, let's note this from Keri Brown's October 2009 report for All Things Considered (NPR):

KERI BROWN: At first, Russell Powell of Moundsville, West Virginia, and his fellow soldiers weren't worried about a mysterious, orange powder when they got to Iraq in 2003. Powell says the powder coated their food, covered their clothes and entered their lungs as they protected workers of contractor KBR at a water plant.

Mr. RUSSELL POWELL (Staff Sergeant, 1092nd West Virginia National Guard Unit): I don't think any of the soldiers knew what it was. We just lay in it, you know, provide security and laying on the ground setting up, you know, fighting positions. We're all in just flack vests; KBR workers are just in T-shirts and -think nothing of it.

BROWN: Now, Powell says he has severe breathing problems from being exposed to sodium dichromate. The chemical contains the same toxic substance that sickened a small town in California made famous by the movie "Erin Brockovich." Like many soldiers in his unit, Powell believes exposure to the chemical has ruined his life.

Mr. POWELL: And I was a very active person, and now I can't even be active anymore. It's tough for my family, also, because my kids look up to me as a coach, and I can't even do that anymore. It's sad.

In the 2008 hearing, Russell Powell walked the Senators through the immediate effects of the exposure:

Russell Powell: After a few weeks of being at the facility, several personnel began getting lesions on their hands, arms, faces and nostril area. As a medic, I felt very concerned for the safety and health of persons exposed. I questioned of the KBR workers, I have forgotten his name, and he told me that his supervisors told him not to worry about it, that we were allergic to sand and dust. Shortly there after, there was another severe dust storm. I ate an MRE and my throat and stomach began to burn like nothing I have felt before. My nose began to bleed and I was nauseated. After this particular storm, I was severely sick to the point that when we returned to Kuwait City, Kuwait, I was told that I was not going out on the mission the following day. The following day, I went to the infirmary at Camp Commando and was seen by a Naval doctor. After a brief examination, he dismissed me as being sick and prescribed me Motrin and Tylenol. Approximately thirty minutes later, I went to a bombshell bunker to give myself an IV, a couple soldiers found me. I was delirious and coughing up blood. I do not remember anything until waking up the following day in the Kuwait Soldiers Hospital. My face and lips were burnt and my throat was sore to the point I couldn't swallow anything. I was there for almost a week getting antibiotics intravenously. The doctors had no explanation why I was sick or why my face and lips were burnt so badly. The day I was released from the hospital, I returned to Qarmat Ali with Charlie Company 2nd platoon. Upon my return to Qarmat Ali, numerous soldiers were complaining of the same symptoms I was experiencing. I prescribed those soldiers antibiotics; however, the symptoms persisted. At the end of June 2003, the Indiana National Guard relieved us of our duties. Our unit moved into northern Iraq. The nose bleeds subsided a little, but the nausea was still present daily. After leaving Iraq in April 2004, I went to the VA clinic in Clarksburg, West Virginia to talk to the doctors about my skin rashes and lesions, stomach problems and nose bleeds. The doctors were unable to determine what the cause is of these problems. In 2009, I received a letter from the West Virginia National Guard stating we were possibly exposed to Sodium Dichromate while serving at Qarmat Ali and the VA doctors believe that this could be what's causing my health issues, but because they know little about Sodium Dichromate, they are researching and trying to figure out the affects of it on the human body.

At the Doyle Raizner lawfirm's website, Matt Finkelstein explains of the latest revelations of what KBR thought they could hide this time:

New documents recently uncovered show that military contractor KBR was aware of contamination at its Qarmat Ali water treatment plan in Iraq at least as early as January 2003. KBR had previously claimed that it was only aware of chemical contamination at the site from sodium dichromate after U.S. National Guardsmen began showing symptoms of exposure.
The newly uncovered documents, however, including an environmental assessment performed by KBR for the U.S. government prior to even the invasion of Iraq, show that KBR was aware that 8 million pounds of sodium dichromate had been ordered for use at the site and that KBR was expecting the facility to be kept in "lamentable" conditions.
Doyle Raizner represents U.S. National Guardsmen and members of the British Royal Air Force who suffered injuries due to their exposure to sodium dicromate in Iraq. The documents were uncovered as part of discovery in the lawsuit after KBR had continued to deny that they were aware of the potentially toxic chemicals until soldiers became ill. The U.S. Department of Defense cited KBR in a September 2011 report for, among other things, failing to act quickly in warning or protecting soldiers and civilians from exposure to sodium dicromate.

April Baer (OPB -- link is text and audio) notes
, "The plaintiffs are asking the court to do several things, including inform the jury about this if the case goes to trial."

The following community sites -- plus KPFK, and Susan's On The Edge -- updated last night and this morning:

Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Yesterday, her office noted this event taking place today:


Wednesday, April 4th,

CONTACT: Murray Press Office
2012 (202) 224-2834

TOMORROW: Murray in Spokane with VA Health Officials to Host Roundtable Discussion with Local Veterans, Tour Homeless Veterans Facility

Veterans will discuss experiences with homelessness, mental health issues, and transition

(Washington, D.C.) – Tomorrow, Thursday, April 5th, U.S. Senator Patty Murray will hold a roundtable discussion with VA officials and local veterans in Spokane to discuss a range of topics including veterans homelessness, issues specific to female veterans, mental health, basic service problems in rural Washington, and transition. Following the roundtable, Senator Murray and Dr. Petzel, Under Secretary for Health in the Department of Veterans Affairs, will tour the Spokane Veterans Homelessness Outreach Center. Senator Murray will discuss her efforts to improve veterans care and benefits nationwide, and will use the stories and suggestions she hears on Thursday to fight for local veterans in Washington, D.C.

WHO: U.S. Senator Patty Murray

Dr. Petzel, Under Secretary for Health in the Department of Veterans Affairs

Dr. Bastian, Chief of Behavioral Health at the SVAMC

Julie Liss, Women's Veterans Coordinator at the SVAMC

John Davis, Program Coordinator, Healthcare for Homeless Veterans

Monica Giles, Program Coordinator at the SVAMC

Local veterans

WHAT: Roundtable with local veterans and service providers about the difficulties they face in regards to:

homelessness, women veteran's issues, mental health, and transition.


Roundtable begins at 12:00 PM PT, tour will take place immediately following roundtable

WHERE: Spokane Veterans Homelessness Outreach Center

705 W. Second Avenue

Spokane, WA 99201-4412


The e-mail address for this site is