14. USAF "TOXIC SOUP" LEAVES A LETHAL TASTE
The Pentagon is the largest producer
of toxic waste in our nation. It produces 500,000 tons of toxic waste each year.
This is more than the top five chemical companies combined. The Pentagon has counted
more than 4,000 toxic waste sites on nearly 500 military bases around the nation
and is still counting. This is nearly four times the number of toxic waste sites
on the civilian Superfund list. The government, which is supposed to safeguard
the environment, is the nation's single worst polluter.
Tinker Air Force
Base, sprawling across an Oklahoma City suburb, is the largest base of its kind
in the world. Tinker also is the Air Force's worst polluter.
For more than
a decade, Tinker has illegally discharged untreated cancer-causing chemicals into
public waters, despite reprimands by the state, the Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA), the General Accounting Office (GAO), and the Air Force itself.
danger to area waters is grave. Tinker sits atop the zone that recharges central
Oklahoma's only underground supply with fresh water. If that aquifer becomes contaminated,
large segments of the state's water supply will become undrinkable. The base dumps
trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene, methylene chloride, and many other
carcinogens, teratogens, and mutagens, all at levels grossly exceeding EPA limits
for these compounds in drinking waters. The levels of some are the highest ever
recorded in surface waters in the U.S. Charles J. Mankin, director of the Oklahoma
Geological Survey, testified more than a year ago that "The potential for
contamination (of the aquifer below) is clear and immediate."
Despite the continued warnings, GAO investigators say base commanders
have routinely swept the bases's practices under the rug to avoid a
scandal during their respective tenures. They show little or no concern
that gross amounts of pollutants continue to enter the ground water.
Base officials maintain that there are only occasional spills of chemicals,
all of which are appropriately cleaned. Nonetheless, two on-base water
wells and a private off-base well have had to be closed.
Tinker exemplifies the Pentagon's toxic waste problem, nobody knows the full extent
of the problem nationwide and the military doesn't really know what to do except
to conduct more studies. The Air Force has hired several military contractors
to clean up its toxic sites; ironically, all of them are major toxic polluters
THE PROGRESSIVE, December 1986, "Base Maneuvers:
The Air Force Serves Up Toxic Soup," by Anthony L. Kimery, pp 33-35; RECON,
Winter 1987, "Toxic Waste: Pentagon #1," by The Citizen's Clearinghouse
for Hazardous Wastes, p 2.