DC Bureau, a project of the nonprofit Public Education Center, has published a stunning four-part series, “No Contractor Left Behind” on the errors by KBR and the Pentagon that allowed National Guard troops to be exposed to high levels of the carcinogen sodium dichromate while stationed at the Qarmat Ali water plant in Balad, Iraq. Adam Lichtenheld, with reporting by Byron Moore, investigates who knew what when about the orange dust that coated Qarmat Ali – and how the government failed to help soldiers who have developed cancers and other problems since being stationed there. Part I of the series introduces us to the soldiers:The blogger goes on to note in her summary of the report that some of the effected soldiers have been denied medical benefits by the VA; and that Congressional Democrats who campaigned in 2006 on a platform promising to investigate contractor corruption have done little to investigate this incident or the incidents of faulty electrical wiring.Between April and September of 2003, the Indiana Guardsmen and their comrades from West Virginia and Oregon were subjected to a deadly health threat that would not be tolerated in any workplace in America.As part of a massive push to restore Iraq’s oil production following the US invasion, contracting giant KBR was tasked with rebuilding the Qarmat Ali water plant, which treated water that was injected into oil wells. National Guard troops arriving there to provide security to KBR employees found the facility coated with orange dust that swirled through the air during frequent windstorms. Soldiers began suffering from severe nosebleeds, nasal infections, and skin abrasions – but when they reported their symptoms and asked whether the orange dust might play a role, they were told it was only a “mild irritant.”
Six years later, these once-vigorous soldiers now find themselves feeble and fraught with worry. Two have died from cancer. Another is in end-of-life hospice care. Dozens more suffer from frequent respiratory problems and chronic illnesses.
In fact, the powder was sodium dichromate, a highly concentrated compound of hexavalent chromium and a potent carcinogen.
You know, this is the sort of thing I'd like to see investigated and discussed on the supposed news networks. Networks that have a marvelous talent at minimizing the amount of actual news that they fit into a 24 hour day. And yet they remain sure to cover whatever "scandal" du jour has been manufactured by the Becks, Drudges, Hannitys, and Limbaughs of the world.
Which is why a handful of employees of a group like ACORN getting caught on film in some kind of conservative fantasy Borat propaganda scheme meant to demonize the organization for political reasons seems to generate more outrage than actual scandals.