Demonstators block the entrance to Camp Garcia Naval Base January 13, 2003 in Vieques, Puerto Rico. For decades, warships and planes used it as a firing range before it was closed in 2003. A new U.S. congressional report, prepared for a hearing on March 12, 2009, says officials from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a branch of the Health and Human Services department charged with protecting the public near toxic pollution sites, "deny, delay, minimize, trivialize or ignore legitimate health concerns" of residents exposed to the toxic munitions left behind. Photo from www.cpcml.ca
The U.S. polluted Puerto Rico through live-fire and bombing exercises from WWII until 2003 while it used the area as the biggest training ground for the U.S. Atlantic Fleet Forces.
The Navy is now fortunately trying to undo the damage by cleaning its shit up. But not because they’re a magnanimous bunch. In truth, it’s a response to the Vieques Government and almost 9,300 residents going after the U.S. Govt for polluting their land and burdening the population with illnesses.
Awesome: the Department of the Interior wants to turn the area into a wildlife reserve once it’s cleaned up. Yay. And small portions of the area including undeveloped beaches have already been opened to the public as a wildlife refuge by the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Sucky: to “clean it up” by getting rid of hazardous unexploded munitions, the Navy wants to detonate them in the open air. Actually, it’s already started conducting these explosions. The Navy also wishes to burn 100 acres of tropical jungle to find where the hell they placed cluster bombs and explode them.
Imagine the smoke, violent noise (causing mass anxiety and general disruption, I presume), destruction and other crap that would – once again – plague the region’s humans, non-humans, and ecosystems if the Navy goes ahead with this at full capacity.
photo by NOAA - ccma.nos.noaa.gov
Naturally, the locals are pissed and suspicious. For a long time now, locals have resisted the Navy’s operations on their home land. And they know this clean-up scheme will screw them once more.
“The great majority of emergency room visits here last year were for respiratory problems,” said Evelyn Delerme Camacho, the mayor of Vieques, PR. “Can they guarantee that contaminants or smoke won’t reach the population? Would we have to wait and see if there’s a problem?”
Head of the Navy’s Vieques restoration program Christopher T. Penny said that thus far, using a remote-control device to penetrate the vegetation has not yielded favorable results. Further, it unexploded bombs are too powerful and therefore unsuitable to be exploded in detonation chambers. Nice bullshit detector.
EPA reps defend the Navy and claim its plans are standard protocol. EPA deputy director in San Juan Jose C. Font went as far as to say the detonations do not pose a threat to human health (um, what about the fauna and flora, genius?) – if limited (what is “limited”?) amounts go off at a time and the wind remains calm. He said that the air quality would be consistently monitored throughout the detonations.
"A gift for Vieques from Clinton and the U.S. Navy" - photo by thegully.com
Gee, with the stellar reputation of the U.S. throughout the Americas, not to mention globally, I’m sure the peeps at Vieques will trust the EPA’s every word and take a chill pill.
After all, the TNT, napalm, depleted uranium, mercury, lead and other chemicals, including PCBs, all potentially present at Vieques are all harmless.
Oh – also, the EPA said the cleanup could last up to a decade.
“In 2003, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which assesses health hazards at Superfund sites, concluded that levels of heavy metals and explosive compounds found in Vieques’s soil, groundwater, air and fish did not pose a health risk.
But this year the registry agency said it would “rigorously” revisit its 2003 finding, and its director, Dr. Howard Frumkin, plans to visit Vieques on Wednesday to meet with residents.”
PR is asking Obama to get his ass in gear and “achieve an environmentally acceptable cleanup” and “closely monitor the health of the people of Vieques and promote appropriate remedies.” It is the least the U.S. could do. The least.
Because if those bombs are not removed, accidental explosions could take place. Any. Time. Actually, this may happen regardless.
“The real risk is that there’s no technology available that would guarantee that they’ve removed every piece of ordnance,” said Jacqueline MacDonald Gibson, an assistant professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Always shitting on everyone. I am so sick of their bullshit. I guess ignorance is bliss. Just reading Naomi Klein’s Disaster Capitalism, for example, makes my blood boil. My mother has had friends “disappear” during a dictatorship funded by the U.S. Government in the late 1970s. I won’t even get into Pinochet. Jesus Christ…
Some good news:
Once the whole mess is over, locals want to use the area for ecotourism too, and housing. These people live in poverty.
Fishers are already enjoying catching their prey in peace, and endangered turtles such as the loggerheads might finally be able to reclaim the land for nesting once the chaos subsides.