Veterans Unaware of Contaminants & Health Effects

The Defense Department needs to notify veterans, dependents and civilian workers of the contaminants and their health effects at EPA Superfund sites. The Pentagon owns 133 EPA Superfund sites, the most of any entity.   At former MCAS El Toro, veterans and dependents reported cancer and other illnesses linked to TCE/PCE and radionuclides.  This EPA Superfund site was closed in July 1999 and thousands of acres sold by the Navy in 2005.

We, the undersigned, urge you to require the Defense Department to notify veterans, dependents, and civilian workers of EPA Superfund sites of the risk of exposure to contaminants and their health effects.  With 133 Superfund sites, the DoD owns the most contaminated sites. (See:  http://epa.gov/fedfac/documents/mynpl2008.htm#3)

Imagine for a moment that you are one of the millions of veterans who served at a base now on the EPA Superfund list. Like many veterans you now live far from your former military base, may not have access to the internet, have no contacts with former military friends, may be seriously ill, and unable to "connect the dots" of your illness to military service. 

Unlike someone injured on the job, there is no workman compensation for a veteran to cover his or her medical expenses or even the possibility of filing a tort lawsuit for injuries. Based on a Supreme Court decision, veterans cannot file a lawsuit against the government. Assuming that you are aware of the connection of your illness to military service, you can file a disability claim with the VA.  The VA disability process may take years to settle.

MCAS El Toro, California, is one of the 133 DoD Superfund sites and one of twenty military bases in California on the Superfund list.  A trichloroethylene (TCE) toxic plume was discovered at MCAS El Toro, California in 1985, the base closed in 1999 and most of the land sold in 2005. (See: http://www.salem-news.com/articles/august082008/tce_interview_7-8-08.php)

Congressman Bart Stupak reported that: "TCE is the most widespread water contaminant in the nation, and almost every major military base has a Superfund site with TCE contamination. Nevertheless, this  obstruction of environmental prerogatives has been the modus operandi of the Defense Department for years now since at least 2001, the Pentagon has sidetracked environmental regulations, opposed EPA efforts to set stricter pollution limits, stalled and under funded cleanups, and ignored federal and state environmental regulators." (See: http://energycommerce.house.gov/Subcommittees/OI-Stupak/061207.CampLejeune.pdf)

Defense Department notification to veterans is the right thing to do.  This should not require a huge expenditure of funds, only an earnest commitment to do it. For example, public service announcements, press releases, and coordination with Veteran Service Organizations can help spread the word to veterans.      

In summary, there's no good reason why veterans of Superfund sites should not be notified of the risk of exposure to contaminants and their health effects.  Realistically, such action will likely require legislation or an Executive Order from the President   

Thank you for your consideration.  We look forward to hearing from you or your designee.

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