DoD Has Contaminated Nearly 40 Million Acres By Burning Old Munitions

Explosive waste is burned in the open at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant in Virginia.
Photo via EPA

The Pentagon has poisoned the well. Literally.

A recent ProPublica investigation revealed some startling information about how the Pentagon's storing, testing and disposing of munitions is damaging the U.S. environment and public health.

Here are some of its major findings:

  • There are nearly 40,000 "known or suspected toxic sites" around the U.S. — which altogether are bigger than the state of Florida — where the Pentagon stores, tests and disposes of armaments and munitions.
  • There are at least 61 active sites, and 136 closed sites that could still be dangerous, around the US where the Defense Department disposes of old munitions by burning them in pits, sending toxic chemicals — such as lead, dinitrotoluene, and perchlorate — into the air, soil and groundwater.
  • There are at least 13 active "Superfund" sites which the EPA has determined to be the most contaminated areas in the U.S.

Numerous studies have found higher rates of cancer, thyroid diseases, brain dysfunctions and other diseases in residential areas around these burn sites, but causation between the pollution and the rates of the disease has not been established.

The Pentagon and their defense contractors at many installations have also repeatedly exceeded the limits of how much their federal permits allow them to burn, ProPublica said. But even the permits themselves are based on "computer simulations of pollution," and therefore are questionable as well.

Read the full ProPublica investigation here.

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