Republicans block aid for veterans exposed to burn pit contamination

The Senate failed to pass a procedural vote Wednesday that would’ve cleared the way for a vote on legislation to expand benefits for the estimated 3.5 million veterans exposed to toxic burn pits during America’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The bill, known as the Honoring Our PACT Act, passed both the House and the Senate with bipartisan support in June, but due to a snag in the bill’s language, it needed to go back and pass the House and Senate again. On Wednesday evening, 25 Republican senators reversed their support from June and voted no on a procedural vote to advance the legislation.

Congressional Republicans are apparently convinced their fascist ideology is so widely accepted by American voters they aren’t in the least reluctant to crap on that segment of the American population who served in our military. That should comeback to bite them on their collective asses. The sooner the better.

Isolated case – we hope!


Joe Raedle/Getty

Cattle from a small south-east Michigan farm that sold beef to schools and at farmers’ markets in the state have been found to contain dangerous levels of PFAS, so-called “forever chemicals” that can pose a serious risk to human health.

The news comes after consumer groups in 2019 warned that using PFAS-laden sewage sludge as fertilizer would contaminate dairy, beef, crops and other food products. However, at the time a Michigan agricultural regulator publicly assured the state’s dairy farmers her agency wouldn’t test milk for the toxic chemicals as they didn’t want to inflict economic pain on the $15bn industry, she said.

Now just over two years later, consumer groups say their fears may have come true.

Officials are “confident” the case is isolated. So confident, they aren’t testing further. That’s a mistake. Political, thoughtless or otherwise…more testing is needed.

Visit to Dairy contaminated by chemicals from Air Force Base


UGA College of Ag & Environmental Sciences

Looking at the cows at Highland Dairy, U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez said there’s no visible sign that anything is wrong with them…

Leger Fernandez visited the eastern New Mexico dairy this week for the first time, although she has been advocating to get the dairy owner compensation for the cattle following contamination from a nearby U.S. Air Force base…

While the cattle at the dairy look like any other cows, Leger Fernandez said tests done at the dairy have yielded results far exceeding the federal (PFAS) standard of 70 parts per trillion. That means the cows can’t be used for food production

The contamination came from fire suppression foam used in training exercises at Cannon Air Force Base. The forever chemicals then entered the groundwater that the dairy relies on. This groundwater is part of the Ogallala Aquifer, which is quickly being depleted. Leger Fernandez said, like all water in New Mexico, the Ogallala Aquifer is a precious resource.

“It is heartbreaking to know that we have contamination in this very important aquifer,” she said.

We also have cities like Clovis that have taken their municipal water supply from the same aquifer – for decades. Negotiations with the Federal Government – ultimately responsible for paying to fix this disaster – are “ongoing”. One of my least favorite bullshit words in the lexicon of journalism.

The poisoning of people in Eastern New Mexico and West Texas – just like the cows – is “ongoing”.

New Mexico wants Air Force to halt public access to contaminated lake


A campsite at Lake HollomanJoshua Hernandez/AP

❝ New Mexico’s top prosecutor is demanding that the U.S. Air Force close a publicly accessible lake at Holloman Air Force Base, saying…the concentration of hazardous chemicals at the site poses a risk to public health and the environment.

…Attorney General Hector Balderas told Air Force officials that sampling shows the contamination — linked to chemicals known as per-and-polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS — are dozens of times higher than federal health advisory levels.

❝ In the case of perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, the samples showed 84 times more than the advisory levels set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency…

❝ New Mexico is preparing to sue the Air Force over groundwater contamination at two bases, arguing that the federal government has a responsibility to clean up plumes of toxic chemicals left behind by past military firefighting activities.

You might think the responsible answer from the military – after all, part of our federal government – would be to work to remedy toxic conditions resulting from their own activities. But, then, this is the United States. The culturally moronic response – “What me worry?” – isn’t limited to cartoon characters. Our politicians, generals, profiteers from the whole military-industrial complex persist in feeling they’re exempt from responsibility to the public-at-large. All we’re allowed is to foot the bills for all of it.

Birds are disappearing from the forests near Los Alamos


Canary in a coal mine

❝ Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory recently published a paper about bird populations on the Pajarito Plateau…

Jeanne Fair’s team conducted this study from 2003 to 2013 on several hundred acres on the Pajarito Plateau. It revealed a 73 percent decrease in the abundance of birds and a 45 percent decrease in the diversity of birds…

❝ Fair is a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory with a focus on epidemiology and animal disease ecology. She is the principal investigator for a long-term research project on the impacts of contaminants on avian populations…

I still chuckle when someone “discovers” that previously-acceptable levels of radioactive exposure and contamination are no longer OK. Forgive my cynicism; but, I worked in a research lab decades ago where half the scientists and researchers told exactly the same tale of work and radiation. Whichever lab handed over their paychecks in the name of “defense” and atomic weapons – made no difference. Every couple of years new research was announced describing how the level of radiation they were accumulating was considered safe no longer. They’d have to move on to a new job, less radiation, until they finally ended up on my turf – developing metallurgy for atomic power generating electricity. No radioactive sources on the premises.

I pay heed to those scientists whose analysis concludes that NO level of added atomic radiation is safe.

What environment? 80% of Tonnage Scrap in 2017 Ended Up on South Asian Beaches


Katiekk/Shutterstock

❝ Of the 835 large ocean-going commercial ships that were sold for scrap in 2017, a total of 543 ships were intentionally run ashore and dismantled by hand at shipbreaking yards in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, where the controversial ‘beaching’ method continues to be the predominant means of disposal for end-of-life vessels, according to new data released by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.

The 543 ships represent just over 80% of the total tonnage scrapped worldwide last year, according to the organization…

❝ The data shows that the practice of ship beaching, where end-of-life-vessels are run aground within the tidal zone and dismantled by hand, continues to be the shipping industry’s preferred method for scrapping despite human and environmental risks and more stringent regulations associated with the practice.

Shipbreaking yards in places like Alang, Gadani and Chittagong are notorious for their often-abysmal safety records and hazardous working conditions. Although certain yards in the regions have made strides to align their operations with international standards for the safe ship recycling, the shipbreaking industry in South Asia continues to be marked by its lax safety oversight and frequent, often-fatal accidents.

RTFA. Safety standards, environmental practices aren’t up to a century any of us have lived in.

Trump to erase rule identifying chemicals oil and gas drillers pump into the ground

❝ The Trump administration is rolling back an Obama administration rule requiring companies that drill for oil and natural gas on federal lands to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking…

The Interior Department issued the rule in March 2015, the first major federal regulation of fracking, the controversial drilling technique that has sparked an ongoing boom in natural gas production but raised widespread concerns about possible groundwater contamination and even earthquakes…

❝ Michael Saul, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group, called the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw the fracking rule “disturbing” and said it “highlights Trump’s desire to leave our beautiful public lands utterly unprotected from oil industry exploitation.”

Backing away from what he called modest rules “is doubly dangerous, given the administration’s reckless plans to ramp up fracking and drilling on public lands across America,” Saul said.

❝ Neal Kirby of the Independent Petroleum Association of America hailed the withdrawal of the Obama rule…

If you do something that makes the greedy bastards at the top of the oil and gas industry happy, you probably just committed a crime against humanity and nature. Nothing that bothers Trump – or any of the chumps who voted for him.

Dioxin, PCBs and pollution — a present from the US Military to the people of Okinawa


Travis Tritten/STARS AND STRIPES

More than 8,700 pages of documents recently obtained under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act reveal serious contamination at Kadena Air Base, the largest U.S. Air Force installation in Asia.

Last week, The Japan Times on Sunday reported about asbestos, lead and the impact of pollution on local water supplies. We also explored the shortcomings of current environmental regulations.

This week, we investigate how past disposal of hazardous waste, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxin, continues to threaten the health of American and Japanese residents, as well as the economic future of Okinawa.

Kadena Air Base has been in operation for more than 70 years but its current custodians know very little of its history — particularly when it comes to the disposal of hazardous substances.

Documents dating from the 1990s to 2015 repeatedly record service members stumbling upon pollution caused, but not reported, by their predecessors. Underground discoveries include petroleum/oil/lubricant contamination, white phosphorous and abandoned storage tanks, one of which leaked approximately 450 liters of diesel, endangering nearby farmland in March 2012.

The struggle to control past contamination is highlighted by the base’s ongoing troubles with PCBs…

During the 1970s, service members at Kadena Air Base stored PCB-contaminated oil in a 21-meter-wide outdoor pool from where it was “subsequently sold for disposal off base or mixed with fuel and burned on base.”

The pool was located on a hilltop near Kadena Marina, a popular recreation spot, and past tests revealing PCBs in the sea suggest contamination had spread from the base via groundwater or storm drains.

The existence of the pool only came to light in 1998 when a whistleblower reported it to local media, sparking an official investigation…

Today, the installation claims to test its water supply twice a year for PCBs and at specific intervals for other substances, for instance quarterly for arsenic and annually for lead. However, the 2014 discovery of high levels of lead in water fountains in an education building and recent failures to warn on-base personnel of elevated perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) levels have called into question the reliability of such tests.

…It appears that the military dumped barrels containing mixed hazardous waste into ravines on the outskirts of Kadena Air Base in the mid-1960s. Around 1980, the two schools were built in the vicinity and then, in 1987, some nearby land was returned to civilian control. In 1996, local authorities constructed a soccer pitch on the site.

In June 2013, workers renovating the pitch unearthed dozens of the buried barrels — some of which contained high levels of dioxin…When military families finally learned about the toxic waste six months later, they were furious. In response, base officials conducted their first checks of the school grounds on Dec. 31. However, they only tested surface soil and did not conduct magnetic tests to ascertain whether any barrels lay buried beneath the school fields.

In February 2014, U.S. Air Force officials declared the school grounds safe but the laboratory test results — totaling 107 pages — have been entirely redacted from the documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

RTFA. It’s long, detailed – and disgusting. It appears the military command at this, the largest US Air Base in all of Asia, commonly covered up the environmental danger affecting military personnel. No concern at all for the citizens of Okinawa, of course.

At this moment, the cover-up continues. US military response to enquiries from the Japan TIMES downplays dioxin compounds as only being a skin irritant – not the danger of cancer, compromised immune systems and more the EPA declares. Reports describe PCB contamination as being within EPA limits – when actual tests exceed acceptable limits by 1700%.

Scenes from the disaster — Fukushima

Five years since the meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant, progress has been made to rebuild much of the prefecture. Yet within evacuation zones designated by the Japanese government, scars are still obvious. Many evacuees who fled are unwilling to return. Thousands still live in temporary housing outside these zones.

Photographs by Ko Sasaki and Tomohiro Ohsumi…

A house stands in an area damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami

A fishing boat swept inland by the tsunami is still left in Namie.

Click through to see more photos. The fifth anniversary of the Fukushima disaster.

Pizza boxes contain chemicals that can make you sicker than bad pizza

Even the packaging of some greasy, late-night indulgence foods may be bad for you.

Three substances commonly found in paper and cardboard food containers were banned this week from food packaging by the US Food and Drug Administration, in a long-delayed response to a 2010 petition filed by a group including the National Resources Defense Council.

The substances are part of a group of chemicals called perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFASs, and are found in many products, including electronics, breathable fabrics, and shoes. They can remain in the body and the environment for years at low levels, raising concerns about eating foods from PFAS-treated containers, where the chemicals act as oil repellants.

It’s unclear exactly what kind of harm these PFASs could actually cause, but the report accompanying the FDA’s Jan. 4 announcement states that “there is no longer a reasonable certainty of no harm.” In other words, there may be negative health consequences from repeated exposure to PFASs, though the science is still out on what those negative effects may be…

Chemicals related to PFASs, known as perfluorooctanoic acids, or PFOAs, have been connected to thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, and preeclampsia, a potentially life-threatening high blood pressure in pregnant women. PFOAs are typically found in non-stick coatings on pots and pans.

Certain types of PFASs have already been discontinued by DuPont, which manufactures PFOAs and PFASs. In May 2015, a group of scientists published a statement of concerns for the long-term risks of exposures to these substances…

For consumers, this ruling only means that the packaging for delicious, oily foods may be slightly less resistant to greasy goodness. There’s no word yet on what new packaging may or may not contain, but for now, here’s one more reason to eat your pizza hot and fresh on the premises, instead of ordering in.

Or make your own pizza from scratch. Delicious, fresh, exactly to taste.